Elephant Plains: We Start our Safari with the Big Five


Brendon Reports: 

Everyone was here by lunchtime yesterday … and none of the guests have experienced the wonder of Elephant Plains before!

So, it was with great excitement that we left for our first afternoon drive.

And Elephant Plains sure lived up to its well deserved reputation.

We were hardly out of the gate to the Lodge when – about two minutes into our safari – we found two lionesses. As we approached we recognised Bebe from the Salala Pride. She was accompanied by a young – probably about two years old – gorgeous young lioness. The two were lying out in the open on the airstrip, soaking up the afternoon sun.

 

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While we started filling our cameras with images of these two we heard alarm calls nearby. Then again, more urgently! Baboons were in a real state, letting all and sundry know that there was real danger close by.

We followed the sound and sure enough – there was Salayexe, the beautiful mother leopard – with a kill. Unfortunately for us she dragged the kill into some thick vegetation and we could no longer see her.

But we were thrilled to have started with two such great cat sightings.

And there was more to come …

We moved on, and enjoyed photographing the variety of game and birds that inhabit the area. Before long we encountered a newcomer –

A healthy, strapping young leopard that we have not seen before came strolling toward us. We stopped so as not to alarm him, but he was quite skittish and after checking us out for a few moments he slipped into a riverbed where we could not venture. Hopefully we will see him again – a truly handsome young fellow!

By now sunset meant that it was time to stop for sundowners, after which we returned to the two lionesses where everyone was delighted to capture backlit, profile and spotlit images of the two beautiful, relaxed cats.

While delightedly filling our memory cards we heard Salayexe call close by – well, we thought it was Salayexe, and when we went toward the sound, we were correct. There she was, strutting across the airfield. She came close to a herd of impala and we waited expectantly – she was so close … one spring … Now!  

But she ignored the herd …

 

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… and after striding across the airstrip she disappeared into the night.

Everyone was completely thrilled by the richness of the experiences during the afternoon as we returned, hugely satisfied, to the Lodge for dinner and bed.

This morning we were out before dawn and found lion tracks within seconds. We followed these and there were the two lionesses from last night! They were sprawled out, looking very distended with large, full tummies. They had clearly made a kill during the night and after gorging themselves, were now resting contentedly. This gave us the chance to get great photographs again … 

… real closeups and again using different lighting techniques.

We found large leopard tracks and started to follow these, but didn’t progress too quickly as we stopped for a herd of elephants, then a couple of buffalo and then a rhino – to complete the Big Five! All this stopping meant that we did not catch up with the leopard, but that hardly mattered. 

On the way back to the Lodge for breakfast a troop of baboons cavorting on an open plain demanded yet another lengthy stop. They rolled around, entertaining us as they ambushed each other, groomed one another, or sat and stared at us balefully.

Back at the Lodge a sumptuous breakfast before some photographic and Lightroom instruction as we look forward to the afternoon …