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Karen Denton

Close Encounter for Two Male Leopards at Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

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Dawie Shares his Experiences and Photographs on the Elephant Plains Photo Safari:

The new Tusk Safari group arrived and after the usual introductions, meal, and briefing, we were more than ready to see what we could find in the bush.

There was great excitement when our first sighting was of a herd of elephants with two really tiny babies. They were so cute, and it was sweet to see them playing together. So many oohs and aahs echoed as the two stumbled around clumsily, and practiced using their trunks. Larger elephants enjoyed the water.

Being our first drive with this group we did stop a few times to photograph Plains game like kudu, wildebeest, impala and zebra. We didn’t linger for too long because we knew that there was a possibility of a leopard sighting.

We found the tracks of the female leopard we had seen during the morning drive, and followed these across the dam wall. We looped around and around, and to our surprise we found a totally different leopard, Xidulu. It was still fairly early in the afternoon, quite warm and not near sunset, so we didn’t expect her to do much. But she surprised us again. She walked along the road, where she allowed us to take numerous shots. After a very a cursory glance the cat totally ignored our presence. She found a cool resting spot in long grass and that was where we left her.

A report about another leopard somewhat to the north meant that we travelled in that direction, but had no luck there, so we turned back to see if Xidulu was thinking about becoming more active.

While we sat with Xidulu we could hear constant impala alarm calls not far towards the east. And every now an again a leopard called. We were very lucky when another vehicle very close to us bumped into a male leopard, Milwati. We photographed him as he made his way slowly towards Xidulu. Suddenly she became aware of his approach and was gone in seconds. Meanwhile the male continued to make his way along. He stared into trees as he went to check if Xidulu had maybe left a kill that he could enjoy.

Then our second vehicle reported yet another leopard! Our arrival at the scene coincided with hyenas that arrived at the same time chased the leopard up into a tree. She rested there with the moon behind her. The setting and her position in the tree could not have been more perfect, giving us ages to get a variety of awesome images, using a variety of techniques.

Whew! After that amazing first drive with the group we wondered what our morning safari would deliver … well, well, well!

The morning started again with a variety of Plains animals and hyena. We helped another group to track a leopard and just as they spotted a leopard that turned out to be Tortoise Pan we spotted a different male, Tingana. The two males were heading directly towards each other.

As he walked along Tingana was really very interested in Tortoise Pan. He watched him and stared intently, alert to every move. It was special to watch the two male cats so close together, and especially Tingana’s reaction. We followed the two, but after a while Tingana disappeared into a drainage line and moments later Tortoise Pan was out of sight.

After that intense encounter we stopped a dam for coffee, hoping that maybe the two male leopards would appear there. But no, not this time!

We were beyond thrilled as we made our way back to the Lodge – and then we found Xidulu again. She walked along and crossed into a neighbouring property so we returned for breakfast and photo editing …

Time With Xidulu at Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

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Dawie Shares his Experiences and Photographs on the Elephant Plains Photo Safari:


The time came far too quickly for the final afternoon game drive for Group 1. On everyone’s mind was to locate the female leopard again. After some tracking, there she lay, dozing in a rather obscured spot. Although it was great to see Xidulu again, we elected to move on.

A huge herd of elephants enjoyed their splashing activities at a dam next to an open area. There was so much activity and we were kept busy for ages as they swam, splashed, drank, and playfully shoved one another. It was tremendous fun to watch again!

After a rewarding time with the elephants we returned to the leopard, and found her with some better visibility. She was restless, groomed herself and it seemed that as it was late evening she would soon be awake and wandering around.

We took a quick drive to check on other animals in the vicinity, and when we returned to Xidulu she was indeed up and strolling down the road. Now we had perfect conditions for superb photography. The cat arrived at a small mud wallow where she stopped for a drink. Photography in the night was excellent. The leopard moved on, and when she spied some impala she started to stalk them. Then a hyena arrived and spooked her. She slunk away into the night. However, our amazing trackers were able to find her quickly again. She walked along through the bush until she found a suitable termite mound. And there we could photograph her with multidirectional lights – with a vehicle positioned on either side of the posing cat. Many of the guests were able to try side lighting and rim lighting for the first time.

Back at the Lodge we enjoyed our starlit dinner, before tumbling into bed.

For our final morning drive, we returned again to where we had seen Xidulu. There we picked up tracks, but they did not look like Xidulu’s prints. Are enough, we found a different female leopard in a thick bushy area near a dam. When she wandered into the undergrowth we waited at the dam.

We had spotted a cheetah briefly but it was very nervous and disappeared.

Our patience at the dam was rewarded when a herd of about fifty elephants arrived for their morning fun in the water, ablutions and drink. The scene was chaotic again as they enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

We found the leopard again as she moved along the dam edge.

Once again walk-bys gave us a typical wonderful ending to yet another very successful TuskPhoto Safari …

Entertainment With Cavorting Elephants at Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

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Dawie Shares his Experiences and Photographs on the Elephant Plains Photo Safari:


It was really hot when we set out for our afternoon drive, and it was wonderful to see that elephants took full advantage of the high temperatures They spent ages playing in water, bathing in mud, splashing themselves and each other, Jostling, nudging, and getting as much mud as possible caked onto themselves. Their cavorting was tremendous fun and we enjoyed every second. To add to the jollity, babies tried their best to manoeuvre their trunks in the shallows, looking so cute and adorable that we simply could not move on. And then one of the youngsters, while playing in the mud, nearly got stuck a few times, giving us even more entertainment.

We eventually dragged ourselves away from the high-spirited herd, and went in search of leopard tracks. We found plenty of Plains animals again, and we came across a male White Rhino out in a large open area. We stopped slightly below his level, and from that position we captured some low-angle shots. He looked so very impressive.

After the rhino sighting we moved to a lioness with her cub. She had caught an impala, and we spent some time with the two of them. They were not in the best position for photography, but while they were feeding, and looking around, we managed some really good portraits of the two cats.

While photographing the lions we heard that a female leopard had been spotted. We caught up with her, and she obliged us with some superb views, including a few walk-bys. Then a hyena suddenly appeared, and chased her way up into a large Marula Tree. She settled down to rest in the tree, and as it was dark we used spotlights for some iconic shots.

On the way back to the Lodge we stopped for some interesting spotlight photography of a chameleon. We managed to position ourselves to get the full moon into some of our images.

Our morning drive started with a search for the female leopard. She was right on the boundary, and luckily for us she decided to head in our direction. She made her way along the riverbed, sniffing and scent-marking as she progressed along. We kept up with her until she entered an area with really thick vegetation. However, our experienced trackers found her again.

While we looped around searching for signs of the leopard we enjoyed another delightful elephant sighting. They were swimming and playing boisterously in a dam, and again we simply had to stop and relish the scene. Hippos watched the elephant antics, but had no reaction to their presence.

As we returned to the area where we hoped to see the leopard again, our tracker pointed, and yes, there she was. She was in thick bush, but emerged almost immediately to join us on the road. After a few walk-by’s again to please us, she lay down to rest.

After that really enjoyable morning we turned towards the Lodge, sorry that it was over, but looking forward to a meal and some photo editing …

How Did We Miss that Kill Almost in Front of Us at Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

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Dawie Shares his Experiences and Photographs on the Elephant Plains Photo Safari:

Our midday break back at the Lodge gave us time to develop expertise on flash usage, and armed with new and some updated skills, everyone had expectations for some superb photography.

And yes, soon after we left the Lodge we found elephants, and not long thereafter we saw rhinos. The morning workshop info was put into practice forthwith.

When a nervous young female leopard was spotted walking around with some anxiety, we were able to follow her discreetly. We wondered if there was another leopard around, causing the tension, but we couldn’t see any signs of another cat at all.

Following the leopard was a treat and everyone had multiple opportunities to photograph her. There were several walk-by’s, and then she climbed a termite mound. All perfect conditions for the newly acquired flash photography skill.

Unfortunately the leopard disappeared into some really long grass, but that gave us a chance to check on the lions we had seen earlier.

It was beginning to get dark as we made our way behind the lions as they walked through the bush. We remained fairly close to them, and all seemed quite peaceful until all of a sudden there was an almighty commotion. We pulled forward, only to find that in those few seconds the lions had killed an impala. By the time we were able to focus our cameras they had already devoured a quarter of their kill. Our spotlights came out and gave us so many different photos, with side-lighting, fully lit portraits, and so much more.

As soon as they had eaten, the lions settled down in a grassy area to sleep.

Our morning game drive was unusually quiet for the Sabi Sand Area. But as I have said before, maybe we are just very spoiled, and seeing elephants, buffalo, zebra, Impala, and other Plains animals was great, but when we don’t see a predator we do tend to feel somewhat let down. We did find leopard tracks that led us on a futile hunt for a while. As always, however, we used the time to practice other photographic techniques like motion blur and high-key photography. It turned out to be a very productive morning and again we were left with plenty of images to gloat over …

A Leopard Enjoys a Pool in a Lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

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Dawie Shares his Experiences and Photographs on the Elephant Plains Photo Safari:

Our first twenty four hours back at Elephant Plains have been a delight again. The area still looks so lovely after the rainy season,  with much of the vegetation now changed to rich golden yellows and browns.

We all arrived in time for lunch, new faces and return guests mingled, and after a chat, welcome, and briefing we set out for our first drive.

As we left the gates of the camp we found ourselves with a herd of elephants. They were in the open, and were a fitting start to our first game drive. And of course, with all the lush vegetation, animals abounded, and Plains game could be seen everywhere.

When we received a report about a female leopard in a tree with a kill we headed in that direction. We arrived to find her relaxing in the grass, and although we hoped that she would climb the tree to her kill, she did not oblige this time.

On the way back to the Lodge we came across hyenas. We stopped for a few photos and then carried on, looking forward to our dinner in the boma.

Our early morning started while we were enjoying our coffee and rusks before the drive. We could hear a leopard calling repeatedly very close to the Lodge. We tried to find tracks, but as there was no sign of the cat we returned to the leopard we had seen before. This time she was lying and dozing on a branch in the tree. When she eventually stirred she jumped down from the tree and started to move towards the north. We followed, and contacted a Lodge that she approached. She stopped to drink water at a pool outside one of the rooms. What a great sighting, but from a photographic perspective it was a bit disappointing. After all, who really wants images of a leopard drinking from a Lodge pool?!

Shortly after that wonderful experience we found three rhinos, and a fourth, a male, separate from the trio.

On our meander back to the Lodge we found more elephants and diverse Plains animals again.

So back at the Lodge we have plenty of material to edit and enjoy before we try to find the female leopard again during our afternoon drive …

Quality Time With One of the most Popular Leopards at Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

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Dawie Shares his Experiences and Photographs on the Elephant Plains Photo Safari:


After such amazing days it was hardly surprising that our departing guests were very reluctant to leave, and at the same time they were keen to share their experiences with our new arrivals. It was understandable then that anticipation was very high, and everyone was super excited, very keen for our first game drive to get going.

Our first sighting occurred within seconds. We found some elephants and a huge herd of Impala almost in sight of the Lodge.

But because everyone was keen to spend time with a leopard, we headed off to where we had last seen the female during our morning drive. We found her lying in a grassy area, but it didn’t take long before she was on the move. She jumped onto a fallen Leadwood tree, where she posed and stretched, giving us ongoing opportunities to photograph her as much as we liked.

Our two vehicles then turned toward the river are where the male and female leopards we had seen were mating. Unfortunately, one of our vehicles got stuck in the sand, but on the positive side, the leopards could be seen and photographed with long lenses. The two leopards rested calmly on a sandy area, and then decided to move into tall grass where visibility was very poor.

We left the pair and drove around. There are numerous Plains animals everywhere, and we also stopped at a dam to photograph a hippo.

As the sun crept towards the horizon we headed back to the amorous leopards. This time they were very active and mated many times. This was accompanied by plenty of action, snarls, swiping at each other, growls, and well – aimed hits.

Everyone was more than delighted with their first drive, and our return to the Lodge for pre-dinner drinks and a sumptuous meal under the stars proved to be a perfect ending to our most successful afternoon.

We went straight through the mating leopards again in the morning, but we found them in quite a hidden area again. We were able to photograph them mating a few times, but grass and leaves kept their activities quite private.

However, our sightings of elephants, rhinos, and Plains animals more than made up for the difficulties with those leopards.

Later in the morning a young female leopard was sighted, and being able to follow her for a few kilometres until she crossed the boundary to an adjacent property was a treat. And then to everyone’s delight, a large resident male leopard, Hosana appeared. He is a very well-known, very popular leopard in the Sabi Sand Reserve, and always appears very relaxed as he swaggers around. It was phenomenal to accompany him as he strutted confidently along the road. He passed our vehicle a few times but seldom gave us more than a cursory glance. Our cameras worked overtime –

Back at the Lodge we enjoyed our breakfast and then started our first photography and editing workshop …

A Triple Leopard Encounter and Glare at Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

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Dawie Shares his Experiences and Photographs on the Elephant Plains Photo Safari:

Our plan when we started our afternoon drive was to check on the young female leopard we tried to find previously. On the way we found and photographed giraffes and then another herd of elephants.

To our excitement we came across another female leopard, Xidulu. She is actually the mother of the younger female we eye trying to find, and it was a great surprise to see her. Xidulu walked along a tree line in an open area. It was a magical time as we followed her while she gradually made her way to a termite mound where she decided to rest. The scene was magnificent, with heavy, dark, moody clouds behind her that a created a panorama with drama and interest.

It was such a special sighting that other vehicles arrived and to limit the number of vehicles close to the leopard, we made way to give others a turn.

Luck was on our side and we managed to find the large male lion we had seen before. This time we were able to remain with him until after sunset, when our spotlights could be used to practice different lighting angles, e.g. side lighting and rim lighting.

A welcome dinner awaited us back at the Lodge and soon after we prepared for an early night and an early morning start.

Who would have thought that the amazing game drives we had enjoyed until now could possibly be equalled yet again. But wait …

There is more! It all started as soon as we left the Lodge with a check of the boundaries. And who shoud we find scent marking, sniffing around and doing his thing, but a handsome male leopard. He is huge, and we stuck with him for some time – in fact until we lost him in some really thick bush.

What a way to start the morning!

Next we found a female leopard as she made her way to a drainage line. The sighting was quite brief, but it was great to find not only one, but two leopards we had not seen previously on this safari.

Then we heard that Xidulu, the female leopard, had been joined by the Tortoise-pan male. To our amazement Tiyane, another female leopard joined them as well.

Of course we made our way to the incredible encounter between the three leopards. What could happen? This could be very interesting and exciting!

When we arrived, Tiyane was watching the other two cats intently. They didn’t seem too bothered by her presence, and after a period of staring and watching, Tiyane gave up and slunk away.

We followed Tiyane to see what she would do. She chose a beautiful tree with a perfect branch overhanging a river, and there she rested, keeping an eye on her territory and making sure that Xidulu does not decide to encroach even a meter or two into her area.

We were able to photograph Tiyane from every conceivable angle, and using flashes and spotlights. It was brilliant, and proved to be the most superb ending to another fabulous trip to this very special area.


As one guest said after, ‘Thank you Tuskphoto, trips with you cannot be beaten!’ …

Leopard Dodges Hyenas, Only to Encounter an Elephant at Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

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Dawie Shares his Experiences and Photographs on the Elephant Plains Photo Safari:


As we started our afternoon game drive, we almost immediately found a herd of elephants feeding very close to the camp. One of the young bulls spotted us and decided that it was time for a show-off session. And did he ever strut his stuff! He came up to the car, demonstrated his importance and ended with a big, noisy trumpet. Having made his point he (and we) left peacefully!

We drove around quietly for a while, stopping to photograph different Plains animals and then a rhino. Wildebeest, hyenas and jackals all grabbed our attention and we were able to get some excellent shots of them as well.

The afternoon progressed toward evening and that was when we received a call to inform us that the Tortoise-pan male leopard had a kill very close to the Lodge. We dashed there and found him in a tree, positioned well for our photographs. We needed to use flash and spotlights as darkness started to envelop the area. The results were superb.

Eventually the leopard jumped down from the tree to reach his kill, and as he tried to avoid five rather menacing hyenas he unfortunately ran straight into an unwelcoming elephant that had stopped for a drink at a pan close to the kill. The hapless leopard had to disappear from the unimpressed elephant while continuing to evade the hyenas.

We returned to the Lodge, totally thrilled with a most amazing afternoon, and already looking forward to the morning excursion.

Obviously as soon as we set out the next morning we went directly to Tortoise-pan leopard to check how he had fared overnight. We arrived to find him climbing down from the safety of his tree. He strolled past our vehicle a few times as he checked around, before he took refuge in a thicket very close to the Lodge and away from the hyenas.

Further on we again encountered the rhino and plenty of Plains animals.

During the night we had heard lions calling again and again, and decided to move towards the area where the sound had came from. We found the lions sprawled out in the open near to the airstrip. There were fourteen in total! Wow! They looked amazing in that setting, in the early light, relaxed and together like that. It was fabulous. We had plenty of time to photograph them from every conceivable angle, high, low, from this side, then that, creating dozens of remarkable images in the process.

Our next destination was in a northerly area where we hoped to find a female leopard. But as so often happens in the bush, our plans didn’t work out. But we did come across a male lion dozing in some tall grass.

We enjoyed a coffee break and then meandered slowly back to the Lodge for breakfast and our Lightroom editing sessions …

Leopards vs Hyenas at Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

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Dawie Shares his Experiences on the Elephant Plains Photo Safari:


When we start each game drive our aim is not only sightings, but also positioning ourselves so that each guest gets not just snapshots, but the best possible photographs to treasure and share.


With this in mind, our afternoon drive was really successful. The weather was cloudy, moody, with lots of thunder. Luckily the rain held off until after we returned to the Lodge in the evening.


We started with a visit to the area where we had seen the female leopard during the morning. We passed a rhino, and then luckily found the cat again even though she was quite hidden in a thicket. However, she was quite active and emerged to walk around and to pose perfectly for us on different termite mounds.

Impalas alarm called continually and we realised that there just had to be another leopard in the area. We searched, but the grass is so tall that it was impossible to find her. We later found out that the daughter of the leopard we had seen was also moving around there.

As we drove away towards the lions we found a leopard way up in a Marula Tree.

The dark, heavy clouds totally obscured the sun, creating a superb setting for photography. When the leopard came down and started to stroll around we were delighted to be able to follow her along the road towards the river.

Then a bit of drama unfolded in front of us. We came across some hyenas and they immediately started to harass the cat. She realised that she was outnumbered and retreated to the safety of a tree where she remained until dark.

We needed to use flashes and spotlights to ensure that she was well lit and the focus of each image. The hyenas milled around the base of the tree while the leopard stared down and snarled menacingly at them. It was truly awesome to watch.

We remained with the leopard and hyenas, watching the hostile interactions until it was time to return to the Lodge. On the way back, our second vehicle came across the Tortoise-Pan Leopard, and stopped for a quick photo before he disappeared into the darkness.

Our morning drive found us on the way to find a leopard when we received a call about another leopard in a tree. We changed direction, hoping that with the storm, this leopard may have a kill in the tree with her. We found her in a Knob-thorn tree, but without a kill. However, she was most obliging and posed beautifully, looking this way and that, watching a herd of Impala.

Then the leopard descended from the tree and disappeared into the bush. After a welcome coffee break we went in search of the lions. We found them with an impala kill. There was little left of the carcass, and a few of the lions preferred to rest on a termite mound while the others continued to gnaw on the scraps that remained.

On our way back to the Lodge we heard that a leopard had been spotted in a tree very close to the camp. We detoured that way, but by the time we arrived he had disappeared, leaving only his kill in the tree. There are many hyenas around, and hoping that he will return to the spot later today, our afternoon plan is to start at that tree …

Who got The Bigger Fright at Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve? …

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Dawie Shares  Game Drives on the Elephant Plains Photo Safari


Wow! What an amazing pleasure it is to be back in this wonderful part of the world. And after the bounteous rainfall this season, everything is lush with healthy animals everywhere.


Our first drive was almost beyond fabulous. As we started out, a very curious, very large elephant approached close to us. He was so close that we used our wide angle lenses for some superb shots. While we watched the elephant a Martial Eagle flew past, landed in a tree not too distant, and then took off again. He seemed to be very interested in a pair of jackals that were in the same area.

Seconds after we left the elephant, there was a magnificent white rhino on a wide open space. They seldom venture into such an open area here, and we most certainly took full advantage of the sighting.


That was all within moments of setting out on our drive. Far more sightings and surprises waited for us …


We received a call about a female leopard. We found her walking through tall, green grass. It was tricky to get good images as she moved, but she obliged us by regularly finding a termite mound from where she could survey the area, and at the same time it gave us plenty of opportunities to capture a variety of good photos.


Then came a rather startling event involving the leopard. As she made her way through the tall grass, she was invisible to a herd of Impala. But for the same reason she was equally unaware of their presence. Suddenly they spotted each other at the same time, and while the big cat took fright and fled, the impala, equally terrified, leaped and dashed off in all imaginable directions. There was chaos for those few seconds, and we were left quite bemused.


We headed back to the Lodge slowly, and took a chance on a detour to maybe find some lions that had been seen during the morning. There they were! We followed as they made their way to the airstrip close to the Lodge. There we used flashes and spotlights and even side-lighting to capture all manner of different night time shots.


That was the most perfect way to end our exciting first drive.


Our morning drive started with plenty of Plains animals. The rains have ensured abundant food, and they are certainly flourishing with Impala, kudu, and so many more species all over.


Hearing that signs of a female leopard had been spotted, we made our way to that area to help to locate its presence. We found the cat as she stood intently watching some bushbuck. Unfortunately the bushbuck saw her, alarm called, and dashed away. With that she also slunk away and was quickly obscured by some dense foliage. But it was a lovely sighting for those few minutes.

We searched for her, and then found male leopard tracks that we also followed. We drew a blank and couldn’t locate either of the cats.


On the way back to the Lodge we came across another two rhinos. They didn’t feel like a lengthy photographic session, so after giving us time to compose some really decent shots they trotted off into the bush and out of sight.

After meals and Lightroom sessions, we look forward to another rewarding afternoon drive …