News from Villiers:
This morning our first very early encounter was with six Spotted Hyenas. Two adults lounged around in a lovely open area with two biggish cubs drinking from them while another two adults sloped around. We used our spotlights as it was still dark. One of the youngsters came close to us and started pasting – walking again and again over grass stalks to leave his scent and thereby to mark the territory. It was fascinating to see how he did this over and over again with the same grass stalk.
Not far away we found two more Spotted Hyenas busy at a week old giraffe carcass. We stopped for shots of them as they chewed on the scraps of skin and bone left on the head.
We saw plenty of Kudu today, including some stately bulls with magnificent spiral horns, looking majestic as they fed on the last bits of green vegetation along a dry river bed.
We spotted a Martial Eagle nest close to a river bed and a young eagle was sitting on one of the branches below the nest. It was almost as though mom had instructed the youngster to sit tight if anything approached, and while we were there he bent his head down and froze. He didn’t rustle a single feather as he tried his hardest to resemble a vulture. It was quite comical to see him sitting there like a statue, probably believing that we were unable to spot or to recognize him, but we had a great view and filled our memory cards with multiple images of the young one.
The highlight for us was when we found Tiyane – Salayexe’s young leopard cub close to a river bed. She was clearly waiting for mom, and in no hurry to go anywhere. But there were so many distractions! Nyalas, Kudus, Baboons, Impalas, Squirrels and even Elephants were close by and kept coming into sight. She moved from one termite mound to the next with each distraction, and even stalked a herd of Impala at one stage, but basically just filled in her time as she waited for mom. Meanwhile we were able to get some wonderful shots of the lovely young lady!
This afternoon we returned to search for Tiyane but she wasn’t where we had left her, and when we heard that fresh tracks belonging to both Anderson and Salayexe had been spotted we headed that way – and found Salayexe – mating with Anderson! This was a very exciting first for some of our group. After the leopards had mated about three times, Anderson leaped into a tree to investigate a really old carcass that had been left there by another leopard. There was nothing left for him to scavenge, so maybe he just went up to investigate.
Meanwhile Salayexe went down to nearby Rhino Pan where she first lay down next to the water and then had a drink with the sun setting behind her, giving us many chances to collect some great images.
Then the two met up again and started mating again … every five to ten minutes, so everyone managed to get good photographs of the huge male with Salayexe. And listening to the deep guttural sounds as they mated was quite impressive.
We also saw two sub-adult hyenas chewing on the final scraps of an old buffalo carcass, and as we switched off the car we heard adult hyenas calling in the distance – that lovely whooping sound – and within moments they arrived on the scene. A noisy greeting ceremony with plenty of vocals followed the arrival of the adults.
After our amazing day we are back at the Lodge, tired and very happy, and so busy talking about everything we saw today that there is no time to even think about tomorrow …