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Dawie Jacobs

A Leopard Territorial Dispute …

By Sabi Sand Photo Safari No Comments

Dawie’s News from Elephant Plains on the Tusk Sabi Sand Photo Tour:

We really wanted to find the female leopard with her two cubs when we started our early morning. But on the way to where she had been another vehicle alerted us with news that they had found very fresh leopard tracks that looked very promising.

Not long after we caught up with the tracks we found two female leopards together. What an exciting, rather scary sighting! The cats were engaged in a territorial dispute and the growls, snarls, hisses, and excess salivating looked very intimidating. Our pulses raced as we watched them. The standoff continued with bared fangs and two very angry cats. We thought that a fight might ensue, but the slightly older leopard (the mother of the single cub) was intent on asserting her dominance to pressurise the second cat to leave the territory, and the younger one wisely left.

As the submissive leopard left the scene, the victorious, more dominant female was hot on her heels. They walked along, one behind the other, down a road, through the bush, through a river, never losing sight of one another. We followed, cameras capturing every moment. Finally they arrived at a spot that must have been the border of their two territories because the dominant female stopped, and watched intently to ensure that the intruder return.

Whew! That took our whole morning and we returned to the Lodge, still agog at the confrontation we had seen. And while they had walked along, both leopards glanced at us from time to time, giving us multiple shots!

We started the afternoon with a follow up on the mother leopard again. On the way we found her cub perched on the limb of a tree trunk. As the mother was away the little one immediately dashed to hide in a hole in the river bank.

We went in search of the second leopard and on the way we received another call, but that leopard gave us the slip. As we turned back we had two separate rhino sightings, and although the grass is quite long, visibility was good.

We finally found the second leopard sleeping way up in a Marula Tree while on the ground we spotted the remains of an impala kill. We remained with her through the evening until night arrived. Just then some hyenas arrived and within seconds they disappeared with the kill.

Shortly after the leopard jumped down from the tree and disappeared into the darkness, signalling time for us to return to the Lodge.

Whew … after these spectacular days, we are really looking forward to the morning and hopefully even more cat sightings …

One Game Drive Three Leopards …

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Dawie’s News from Elephant Plains on the Tusk Sabi Sand Photo Tour:

We arrived at Elephant Plains for our first safari here for 2019. It is always exciting to be here, and the expectation level in our group was high.

As we left for our game drive we received a call about a female leopard and started to head that way. As we drove along we were surprised to see how lush and long the grass is. It looks beautiful, but makes game viewing a little more difficult.

We found the leopard – a lovely young female. She is very petite and was very busy. We followed her as she moved about. As she passed through the grass visibility was poor, but we kept up. Luckily for us, however, she climbed almost every vantage point she spotted. Each time she appeared on a termite mound or on a fallen tree our cameras captured the moment.

She spotted prey and started to hunt. She went into stealth mode and that was when we lost her in the long grass. But having spent a very productive time with her, we were not really dismayed.

We moved on to an area in the south where there were earlier reports of a large male leopard. On the way we came across a really big, magnificent elephant bull. He was in musth, but was very relaxed. He strolled slowly past our vehicle, feeding as he made his slow any along from bush to bush, tree to tree. It is always such a treat to see those big guys looking so well.

A little later digressed when we spotted another female leopard … also young, and healthy. She was very busy, moving rapidly, searching for something to hunt, and it wasn’t too long before she also disappeared into the long grass.

We continued our search for the male and actually found him. But shortly before we encountered him we received a call about yet another female female leopard. What? Three female leopards on one game drive? We detoured again and first thought it was the leopard we saw earlier. But it was indeed a third young leopard. It was dusk by now and she was hunting actively. We turned down our lights so that we did not influence the hunt and sat quietly, watching the shapes of the leopard and the herd of impala that she was stalking and watching intently from a mere forty meters away.

The next moment chaos erupted. Buck snorted and flew in all directions. Hyenas! They created such a commotion, and within seconds there were only hyenas, no impala and no leopard!

The hyenas were running towards an area where we could hear lions contact calling, but as it was late we could not follow them. We returned to the Lodge for dinner and now we think that it may be a good plan to start the morning at those lions … hopefully there will be action there …

The Djuma Experience in Sabi Sand … from Retief van der Reyden

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The Djuma Experience in Sabi Sand
from Retief van der Reyden

I have always been a great fan of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and have visited on a yearly or even twice yearly basis. For me this has become a pilgrimage in pursuit of big cats – and Sabi Sand can be regarded as THE worldwide Uotopia of leopards. All my previous visits were to the southern and central regions of Sabi Sand where I achieved very satisfying photographic results and had wonderful experiences.

However, this time we decided to try a new adventure in the Tusk Photo Line-up. Tusk Photo recently added added Djuma Camp in the northern Sabi Sand to their options.

What a wonderful destination and awesome surprise!!!!!!!

Firstly, I really like the camp!!!!! Tusk Photo reserved the whole of Vuyatela exclusivley for our group.

The camp is self catering and Tusk Photo supplied all food and drink which was prepared by the Vuyatela chef and staff.

We were accompanied by Tusk Safari host Dawie Jacobs, who is well known at Sand Sand. Dawie also did our whole menu and ‘killed us softly’ with great food and a superb menu. Well Done!

Secondly … our camp had very good lodgings that overlook a floodlit dam with regular procession of game that arrives to drink, relax, or play around the water.

Thirdly, it was a pleasant change to drive some new areas in the Sabi Sand Reserve. On the areas we traversed there are some truly beautiful spots (bordering Buffelshoek/Manyelete), and there are areas with wide open spaces and less dense vegetation. The northern are is a dream to visit, with less traffic, and we never had to wait in line to visit a sightng. Similarly, we could remain as long as we pleased at a big cat sighting without having to make way for waiting vehicles. Our guides were old, very knowledgeable Sabi Sand hands – Taxon and previously Aubrey.

On a similar note, my fourth important note was the lack of time pressure. We could remain at sighting until we were satisfied with our photograhic resulta rather than clock watching …

Lastly, we enjoyed some superb, memorable sightings. We encountered all the usual suspects with regard to big game and plains game. We saw lions on five of our outings, and stayed with one pride for about 5 hours! They were crippled and bruised after a rough night! Another pride was equally obliging and gave us some really good flash, spotlight, and low-angle opportunities.

As always expected in the area, we encountered no fewer than 5 leopards on different occasions, ranging from a large male, some females, and even juveniles. They patrolled, hunted, lounged, or slept. And on one game drive we managed to nail 3 different leopards.

As an added bonus Dawie organised a visit to SafariLive HQ, also on Djuma property, located in the Research Camp. It was very interesting to meet the people and presenters, and we gained an insight into how large their operation really is.

So all in all – thanks Dawie! – and awesome trip to a wonderful new area.
This is a great addition to an already awesome range of products in the Tusk Photo Line-up!!!!!!!!!!
To the rest of the Tusk Photo crew – Wim and Brendon – – Very Well Done!!!!!!!!!!!!

A Perfect Day Photographing Big Cats …

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Dawie Reports from Djuma in the Sabi Sand Reserve (Djuma Photo Safari):

Having seen so many leopards and had so many wonderful opportunities for photography, we thought it would be amazing to start the day with the lions. We searched for them and found female tracks accompanied by cute cub prints. Our search for lions yielded nothing other than their paw prints and when we received a call about a leopard we changed direction.

We found a female leopard as she crossed a boundary into Djuma territory. She was very busy indeed, and we followed her for almost two hours as she went about her morning business. She scent-marked, sniffed around, examined the area thoroughly, and then started to hunt. She searched everywhere for something to eat and jumped onto different vantage points like fallen trees or large termite mounds.

Then she climbed a Marula Tree where she rested and slept for a short while. After her rest she jumped down from the tree and we left her eventually when she disappeared into thick bush.

We made our way back to the Lodge slowly. We saw plenty of elephants on the way. There were also numerous Plains animals around and giraffe were spotted regularly.

Back at the Lodge we enjoyed Lightroom training and a brief rest before it was time to leave again for our afternoon game drive.

Our afternoon started with a search for lions again and we hadn’t gone far before we heard that a large pride had been spotted. They were not far from the main gate to the reserve and we immediately made our way there. The lions were completely flat, enjoying the typical daytime siesta that lions enjoy.

We carried on and before long we found very fresh lion tracks. To our delight the tracks led us directly to a lioness resting on top of a termite mound. She was beautiful and we were able to use our wide-angle lenses. It was fairly cloudy and our images turned out really well in the soft light.

We stopped for sundowners and as we enjoyed our G&Ts and other choices, the lioness started to contact call. Again and again her roars echoed across the veld. We realised that she is a member of the pride we saw earlier, and surmised that they would all try to meet up. With this idea in mind we quickly returned to the pride we saw earlier – and sure enough, they were on the move. It was getting dark and we took out our spotlights. We followed them closely and when they stopped for a drink at a waterhole our well-lit low angle shots were exactly what one could wish for.

We followed them a little further before it was time to return to the Lodge.

And this morning our final game drive took us back in the direction of the lions. On the way we found a herd of about eighty buffalo – this completed our Big Five 5 sightings for this safari.

We could not find any fresh signs of the lions, but we stopped frequently for other game. Back at the Lodge we had a latish breakfast and then dispersed to return home. Everyone vowed to return as soon as possible …

At Last – A Successful Leopard Hunt …

By Djuma Photo Safari No Comments

Dawie Reports from Djuma in the Sabi Sand Reserve (Djuma Photo Safari):

After early coffee and rusks in the early morning, we went out in search of a leopard. While looking around for leopard tracks we saw a three Bateleur Eagles. They were positioned beautifully for photography with no distracting foliage behind them, and we happily grabbed the opportunity to fill our cameras. The birds sat quietly while we composed our shots, and did not react when a volley of clicks echoed across the veld.

We saw other birds and started to drive towards them when we came upon a beautiful young female leopard. She sat next to a water hole and ignored us as she looked around the area very intently. We realised that she was hungry and possibly looking for a meal, and yes! It wasn’t long before she started to leopard crawl. She crept stealthily across the road, belly almost touching the ground, and all attention straight ahead. We sat quietly, hardly breathing, and with pulses racing. Then we saw her quarry – a Scrub Hare. Suddenly she broke cover and dashed, but the hare disappeared into long grass and she gave up.

Whew! That was exciting!

We followed the leopard further as she continued to look around, and we finally left her when she settled on a termite mound and went to sleep.

After stopping at a herd of elephants we returned to the Lodge for a meal and then some work on our photographs.

This afternoon was very eventful. We started in a different area where we had heard reports of a lioness with small cubs. Although we found tracks, the grass is so tall in that area that visibility is very restricted and we rather returned to the area where we left the leopard earlier.

We received a call about a leopard in a tree, and we quickly went there, hoping that it was the leopard we had seen during the morning. But it was an older, also very lovely leopard. She was up in a Marula tree and we were able to get some fabulous shots before she got up, stretched, came down from the tree, and disappeared into the thick foliage.

We returned to our search for the young leopard, still with a hope that she may decide to hunt. A second vehicle spotted her and we caught up quickly. She moved along a beautiful riverbed toward a small water hole where she stopped for a drink. We photographed every step of the way.

As we followed she chased anything that she could find. She went after small animals and birds, including a Night-jar. Then she chased another Scrub Hare and amazingly, although there had been very little stealthy stalking, she managed to catch the Hare. We felt like cheering. She is very inexperienced at hunting and she grabbed the Hare very clumsily, causing the creature to create quite a din. This usually attracts scavengers like hyenas, and she was aware of this, because she dashed to the thickest bushiest area she could find and slunk in there to enjoy her very welcome meal.

We left the leopard in peace and turned towards the Lodge. On the way we found yet another female leopard. She was the mother of the young leopard with the Scrub Hare and she was walking quite rapidly to where we had just left her daughter.

In the morning we would like to follow up on all three leopards …

Lions put on a Spine-chilling Performance for Us …

By Djuma Photo Safari No Comments

Dawie Reports from Djuma in the Sabi Sand Reserve (Djuma Photo Safari):

We started out early, before dark, in search of the large male leopard from the previous day. We found his tracks and followed them. On the way we were interrupted when we found a large herd of elephants, and stopped again and again for plenty of Plains animals. There were so many impala and zebra that we could choose in which direction to point our cameras.

While trying to figure out which direction the leopard had taken we stumbled across a rhino and a lone elephant bull. They were together at a mud wallow and we made the most of the opportunity to photograph the dual sighting.

From there we searched further in a northerly direction for the elusive leopard. To our surprise we found three male lions together. We remained with them for the remainder of the morning. The sky was overcast, which meant that the cats remained active for far longer than in the heat of a sunny day. The overcast conditions also created a very soft ambience for our images, and without harsh shadows we photographed the trio from all angles.

This afternoon we decided to attempt to find leopard tracks again – and again we found fairly fresh tracks that showed that the male leopard had indeed been around. After a search we thought that our time would be better spent back the male lions, as we knew that the evening light would be beautiful, and that they should be quite active towards the late afternoon hours.

When we arrived the trio was fast asleep but within a few minutes they woke up and one started to move around. As the light changed we used flash and then spotlights to illuminate his activities.

As we were about to leave all three lions started to roar in unison. Sometimes just one gave voice to the evening air, followed by the others, at other times their roars blended and created chills down the spine of anyone in earshot.

After that incredible performance we returned to the Lodge for pre-dinner drinks and a sumptuous meal before an early night in preparation for our early morning start …

First Game Drive and a Leopard Hunt! …

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Dawie Reports from Djuma in the Sabi Sand Reserve (Djuma Photo Safari):

It is truly wonderful to be back in the Sabi Sand Reserve where there is always so much to see and spotting big cats, notably leopards, is almost a certainty.

We all arrived this afternoon and wow! What a fabulous start to our safari. It is overcast and cool, which is quite a gift for this time of year. After delectable lunch and then a friendly briefing we were ready for action. The bush is beautiful and lush after the seasonal rains, and everything is very green – so very different from my last visit here when the land was parched, and animals searched for water. We were a trifle concerned that the extra foliage would hide the animals … but there was no need to worry.

In fact as we arrived at the Lodge we could see an elephant at the dam right in front of the Lodge, and on our drive we saw a herd of about 20-30 elephants with youngsters of varying ages. They were at a waterhole and the little ones had such fun as they splashed around in the refreshing water.

Soon after we spotted a large kudu standing majestically on top of a termite mound and in a superb position for photography. We took advantage as he stood there, very still, and gave us ample time to get the best shots. It was still very overcast, and the diffuse light created a very quiet, serene atmosphere.

Two Rhinos were grazing in long grass when we spotted them. Every now and again they lifted their heads for a look around and each time cameras clicked furiously.

We kept a lookout for predator tracks and were thrilled when we found fresh male leopard tracks. And it didn’t take long before we found him – a handsome large male leopard who is well known in the area. He moved around and sniffed at different bushes and logs before he scent-marked. We noticed that his scent-marking was very concentrated and more than usual. Our tracker then informed us that a female had been around that spot earlier in the day – he was leaving a strong message for her.

We followed the leopard for ages. He walked down a road, towards us and then strolled past us. When he spotted a Scrub Hare he went into hunting mode, and we waited excitedly with our photographic equipment ready for the moment. But after a brief attempt he gave up and rather went to settle down and groom himself.

So after a fabulous first day we are ready for dinner and an early start in the morning …

Hyenas Steal Another Kill …

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Dawie’s News from Elephant Plains on the Tusk Sabi Sand Photo Tour:

Because there was no signal, I apologise that my update is a little late …

When we left the Lodge we first tried to find a Leopard that we had seen previously not too far away. This Leopard had a Warthog kill in a tree when we last caught up with him, but now there was no sign of him. But we did find evidence and tracks that Hyenas had been around and had made off with his kill. During the night the kill had dropped and we could see clear Hyena tracks and drag marks. We also found Leopard tracks heading out of the area. This was a bit unfortunate as we really wanted to get those photos of the big male in the tree – but that is what the bush is like and we knew that there would be more excitement waiting for us somewhere.

We heard that a pack of Wild Dogs were moving about towards the southern boundary, but a quick check yielded no luck there. Just then we received a call about another pack of dogs – the pack of four dogs that we saw the other day. We went to them and found the pack settling down to rest in the late morning heat. Meanwhile Hyenas gathered around them and kept an eye on them, while the dogs gazed back warily at the intruders.

While we were with the dogs and Hyenas we received another call. One of the guides could see a female Leopard with a male Impala Kill in a riverbed. We hurried there and found her in a tree with her kill.

She remained up there for a just a moment before she came down to rest in the cool sand in the riverbed.

We returned to the Lodge for our meals and some Lightroom training, determined to return to the Leopard as soon as we could – but as always reports came in that changed our minds and we rather headed south to see the Wild Dogs that we had missed during our morning search. We found eight Wild Dogs lying adjacent to a dam. There were four adults with four six month old pups. The pups were really active and provided us with plenty to see and photograph as they frolicked, jumped, chased, fell around, and harried the adults.

When we left the dogs we headed to a pride of Lions that we hoped were close by. We found them lounging on a termite mound. The blue, purple and orange sky behind them looked beautiful and we used fill in flash to capture the details of the cats in the foreground on the mound. It was stunning – and a fabulous way to end another lovely day at Sabi Sand.

In the morning we really have choices for our early drive. We will have to decide whether to visit the Lions, Wild Dogs, or Leopard when we first set out …

A Pregnant Leopard Searches for a Den – and Later Loses her Kill …

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Dawie’s News from Elephant Plains on the Tusk Sabi Sand Photo Tour:

As it was the final morning for the first safari group everyone really wanted to try and see as many animals as possible.

We tried to find a Leopard as this was high on the wish list and everyone felt it would be an appropriate end to a very successful safari. While we were searching for tracks we received a call about a small pack of four Wild Dogs that had just made a kill. The dogs disappeared from the kill and we found them as they headed towards a small waterhole.

They were very active and played and chased each other as they drank the cool water. When they decided that it was too hot to continue their games and they had finished drinking they found a shady spot where they settled down to rest during the increasing heat of the day.

We made our way gradually to an area where fresh female Leopard tracks had been reported. On the way we came across a herd of Elephants and stopped to photograph them.

Shortly after that a small herd of Buffalo drinking water looked so peaceful and the scene was so idyllic that we stopped again for photographs.

Not only that – we simply had to record them because our Buffalo sighting completed our Big Five list for the first group! This was a first safari for some guests and it was an extra thrill for them to experience multiple Leopard sightings, the Big Five – plus Hyenas, Wild Dogs, and all the other species of animals and birds that we have so enjoyed during the past days.

We continued to the area where the Leopard tracks were visible and it didn’t take long before we found her. She is heavily pregnant and we watched as she climbed into different hidey-holes. She even climbed right into holes in the side of termite mounds and disappeared completely before she emerged again and moved to the next mound or very thick bush area. She was clearly searching for an appropriate den site and we followed for a while as she checked multiple areas for a suitable site. She made her way along the riverine area and when she became tired and hot she selected a shady spot and went to sleep.

After hearing during lunch about all the amazing experiences and sightings the departing Tusk Safari guests and enjoyed, the new arrivals were almost impatient to complete the briefing and get into the reserve.

Because everyone was really keen to see Wild Dogs, we went to the area where we left them earlier. The dogs were still resting, and as they only got up and moved occasionally we took a few photographs and then thought we should rather try to find the pregnant Leopard again.

On the way we passed plenty of Plains animals as always and when we saw a couple of Rhinos, they were positioned perfectly for our images. To our surprise and gratification we actually ended up with three separate Rhino sightings, but of course it was the first one that caused the greatest excitement.

While we were tracking the pregnant Leopard we came across an Impala kill that was being eaten voraciously by Hyenas. Because this was exactly where we saw the Leopard a few hours previously we deduced that she had made the kill and the Hyenas had then chased her and stolen her kill.

By now it was a little late to continue our search for the Leopard much longer, so after a quick look around we gave up and made our way back to the Lodge. And naturally, we would like to continue our search in the morning …

Leopard – and Lion Hunts …

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Dawie’s News from Elephant Plains on the Tusk Sabi Sand Photo Tour:

Another busy day awaited us when we left the Lodge this morning. During the night repeated Lion calls not far away could be heard and when we set out before sunrise, we tried to locate them first. We drove around for a while, but as we could not even see a single Lion track we moved on.

Everyone wanted to return to the Hyena den again because our previous visit and photography time at the den was cut short when we received the call about the Leopard. We arrived at the den and were pleased to see that there were about ten hyenas around. The adults lazed and moved very little while the pups and youngsters gambolled and played and chased each other and tried to interest one or other of the adults in a game from time to time.

From the den we went southward and there we found Leopard tracks. We searched and were rewarded with a lovely sighting of one of the young female Leopards. She was hunting and we watched as she hunted through the riverbed, went up and down banks and through open areas. It was quite late for hunting activities and although she persevered and even stalked a herd of Impala, her efforts all ended without a kill.

Back at the Lodge we had breakfast and our last Lightroom session with these guests, being their final full day on this safari.

When we headed out this afternoon we decided to return to the female Leopard. She was looking quite thin and hungry, and we hoped that she would continue hunting in the late afternoon. On the way to the Leopard we stopped to photograph a herd of Elephants with young babies at a waterhole – and then the same two Rhinos that we saw previously.

We spent a lot of time with the Leopard as she searched the riverine area for Duiker or Steenbuck. Eventually she perched on top of a termite mound. Her interest was captured by a Scrub Hare that sat in front of the mound. She watched it until it ran away.

We left her to go in search of Lions. We found two Lionesses that we photographed before but the males were nowhere to be seen. The two cats were played and rolled around. The interaction was amazing to watch and every now and again they stopped to contact call the males.

Then the two Lionesses spotted some Impala and they immediately focussed on them and started to stalk them. Ears flattened and bellies to the ground they crept up to the herd. But just as they neared the Impala they were spotted and every member of the herd disappeared in a split second. The Lions went to lie down and we left them to sleep.

As we drove slowly back to the Lodge our Guide And Tracker spotted a beautiful Barn Owl in a tree right next to the road. These Owls are usually rather shy, but this one sat quietly, staring at us, and allowed us to take hundreds of photographs. We continued until it was very late and we had to return to the Lodge.

The group is hoping that their last game drive in the morning will be a exciting as all the others have been, and we will looked forward to the arrival of our new arrival TuskPhoto guests …