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Hendri Venter

A Ruckus in the Bush …

By Sabi Sand Photo Safari No Comments

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

The early predawn darkness found us as usual out of the camp, in search of predators. We were settling down to a search when we received a radio communication about a leopard that was calling repeatedly.

We dashed off in the direction of the reported sound and switched the vehicle off to hear better. After just a few seconds we heard impala alarm calling and we quickly moved to that area where we checked around. The impala were very nervous and reacted to every small sound. Then we spotted a hyena and thought aha! That is what is causing all the upset here.

We moved on and very close by we found a leopard. We don’t think it was the one we were after originally but this one kept our cameras very busy. He walked up and down and back and forth, and were able to stay with him until we heard that another vehicle had arrived. We made way for them.

After a short drive we returned to the leopard. Our very bush-wise game ranger realised that the leopard was slowly making its way to a waterhole, and we were able to get ahead and then wait quietly at the waterhole. The leopard came along as anticipated and settled down for a long, restful drink. Everyone was able to get some really good images.

On the way back to the Lodge we stopped again for elephants, kudu, and general Plains game.

After a session of Lightroom and plenty of sustenance we were ready for our afternoon drive. We returned to the area where we left the leopard in the morning and although we found her tracks, but they led nowhere. We realised that she would be sleeping for the day, and turned our attention to a Pearl-spotted Owl and a Spotted Eagle Owl and all the other plentiful Game around.

Time was running out when we heard that the leopard had been located again. But as it was late we decided to rather try and follow up on the leopard during our final game drive in the morning …

Mating Leopards and Fighting Hyenas …

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

We left the Lodge shortly before sunrise and headed out to see what the day would have in store for us.

It wasn’t long before we found a female leopard lying on a rock. As we arrived she jumped down from her vantage point and started to move about. We followed her and we noticed that she was searching for prey. She checked here and there and then encountered suddenly she not only elephants, but also a hyena at the same time. So we had elephants, hyena and a prowling leopard all together at one spot. It was awesome have two of the Big Five in one shot and of course the presence of the hyena as well made the sighting very interesting.

The leopard continued her search for something to hunt. She went up and down termite mounds and climbed tree stumps to have a look around. However, she didn’t spot anything that meant food.

Eventually we left her and moved on – and luck was really on our side. We found a pair of mating leopards. It was the male that we saw yesterday with a female that was new to that area. The two mated every few minutes, giving every guest sufficient time and opportunity for fabulous shots.

Then the female leopard that we followed earlier pitched up right there with the mating leopards. Wow! Three leopards in one frame. How lucky could anyone be?

On the way back to the Lodge we stopped to photograph rhinos, elephants and giraffe.

This afternoon we decided to be different and search for some other animals. But we found ourselves close to the mating leopards again and thought that we would see how they were doing. They were gone! There was no sign of them and we later heard that the male had left on his own and was seen without the female. So maybe that was the end of the mating, but we will check again tomorrow.

An elephant herd with plenty of youngsters and small babies kept us busy for a long time. The little ones are so cute at a very young age as they experiment with trying to control their trunks. They are wonderful to watch.

It was after dark when we received a call about fighting hyenas not far from where we were. We dashed there and saw the reason for the commotion. They had a kudu kill, and a large number of hyenas were all trying their best to grab as much as they could and at the same time to keep others away. The feeding was chaotic, noisy, and rather fierce. We used our spotlights to photograph some of the action before it was time to return to the Lodge with some reluctance.

In the morning we plan to try and locate the leopards again, hoping that they will still be mating …

Our Camp Visitors Return for Another Visit …

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Hendri Shares a Day on the Kgalagadi Photo Safari:

We left the Lodge earlier than ever because the reserve gates open earlier from August. Most of the guests were really keen to see a giraffe as they had never seen one in the Wild before, and that became one of our missions for the day. We crossed over to the dunes. We searched and were lucky enough to find exactly what the guests hoped for – not only giraffe, but also other Plains animals like springbok that some people could photograph in the same frame.

On the dune road we saw plenty of raptors, korhaan, and jackals.

The Lodge supplied a delicious brunch for us and we chose a beautiful picnic spot to stop and enjoy our delicious repast.

We travelled all the way to Twee Rivieren, passing so many animals on a way that a full list would be tedious and boring. But for us it was wonderful to spot and to photograph the variety. As always the antics of the meerkats demanded a stop and plenty of delightful shots. At Twee Rivieren we made a quick pit stop and the guests took the opportunity to buy souvenirs.

Back at the Lodge we rested for a short while before we set out again for an afternoon drive. Our aim was to locate the lions again, but although we saw plenty of tracks, and followed the fresh prints, we had no luck.

As always there was plenty to see – general game everywhere, and jackals that prowled around. We even spotted Bat-eared foxes that were hunting in the late afternoon sun.

We were close to the Lodge when we spotted a herd of Springbok. And were they ever having fun! They played, jumped, did their ‘pronking’ leaps that intrigued everyone.

Back at the Lodge we had visitors again. This time a lioness with two one-year old cubs was drinking at the waterhole next to the camp. When they left the waterhole they took a stroll right through the camp again on the walkway, examining everything around them as they made their way along.

So for the second night we have had lions right here in the camp. Needless to say the guests are thrilled and messages are flying to different continents to share the excitement …

Tomorrow we have a surprise for the guests …

A Day in Paradise …

By Okavango Photo Safari No Comments

Hendri’s Update from Khwai River Lodge on the Okavango Photo safari:

There is so much to see in this magnificent part of our planet, and because we are keen to experience as much as possible, we were up bright and early, and after breakfast we were ready to leave more than a half hour before sunrise.

Now, should we check on the leopards, hyenas, Wild Dogs, or hippo carcass first? But as always we changed our mind. The morning was just so calm, serene and idyllic that we went straight to a pool with hippos to enjoy a quiet, relaxed, re-energising morning.

It was just wonderful. Only the sounds of birds, hippos in the pool, and the wind rustling the leaves. Who could ask for a more perfect start to the day.

Then we drove around slowly, and concentrated on the general game and birds. We stopped to watch one particularly busy Elephant as she stood on her hind legs to reach into the lofty branches of a tree to reach the softer, more succulent new leaves way up at the apex of the tree.

We increased our bird photography count – and currently we have images of almost a hundred different species. Wherever you look there seem to be a different birds to be identified and added to the fast growing collection. It is almost overwhelming! One hardly knows where to point a camera, there is so much at any one time.

When we heard that a leopard could be seen we scouted around that area, but no luck. We tried quickly this afternoon again, with the same result.

A Grey-headed Kingfisher appeared right next to our vehicle during our afternoon drive. He posed so beautifully for us!

We enjoyed sundowners at a beautiful spot overlooking a river where elephants grazed peacefully. Idyllic!

We heard that the leopard had been spotted again, but it disappeared into the bush before we could get a good sighting.

Now we are enjoying dinner out in the bush, under the bright twinkling stars, and listening to those magical nocturnal bush sounds. In the morning we have one more drive before we leave for our next destination (Mombo) …

Leopard Mother and Cub With a Kill – and Duelling Hyenas …

By Okavango Photo Safari No Comments

Dawie’s News from Khwai River Lodge on the Okavango Photo safari:

After eating a full breakfast with steaming hot coffee we were ready and eager to welcome another day in this paradise.

We tried to figure out where the leopards would be this morning, and as we drove in the most likely direction we received a call that one of the guides could hear the sound of fighting hyenas.

We quickly headed that way and spent a very exciting time watching hyenas indulging in a brawl. They were next to a hippo carcass that they were feeding on. The morning was cool, with a wispy mist hanging over everything. This created the most fabulous, moody scene for photographs and with that rather violent interaction between the combatants, the entire sighting is one that will be remembered for years.

From there we went in search of the leopards again, and to our amazement and even more delight we actually located them without too much difficulty. Mother and cub had done almost exactly what we imagined last night – a waterbuck kill! We remained with them for a long while as the cub played in and out of the trees, pounced on anything that moved, then rolled around, harassed mom, and enjoyed the early morning.

Our second vehicle went to check on a report of Wilds Dogs, but as they were fast asleep and disinclined to move for the next while, they returned to the leopards. They were just in time to see the female drag the kill to a new location.

So all in all we had a superb morning and returned to the Lodge for lunch, well satisfied with more wonderful memories and our growing photographic collection.

This afternoon we first returned to the hippo kill where we photographed the different vulture species as they squabbled and fed, flapping, and hopping, and grabbing tasty morsels. The scene appeared really chaotic, with movement everywhere.

We found a troop of baboons at a water channel. They were drinking and playing around in and out of the water.

After this we went back to the Wild Dogs. They kept us busy especially when they started to hunt. After they spotted a herd of zebra the chase was on! Excitement mounted as they singled out a male and chased him around quite a bit.

And finally we returned to the leopards but as they were barely visible in thick bush we didn’t hang around. After all, we have spent an excellent time with them and have lovely photographs …
Tomorrow we will decide whether to check on the leopards, hippo carcass or Wild Dogs first when we set out – or the morning could hold a different surprise for us …

Hunting Wild Dogs, Mother and Son Leopards, 43 Bird Species – wow! …

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Hendri’s Info from Khwai River Lodge on the Okavango Photo safari:

We left the Lodge this morning after a hearty breakfast and about forty minutes before sunrise.

We were not on a mission to track down anything in particular and were happy to simply enjoy the African bush and see what various animals would appear – an did the bush ever show off today!

We found leopard tracks almost as soon as we left the Lodge, but couldn’t locate the actual animal. But that could have been because we spent so much of our time photographing birds. One has to experience the amazing bird life here to appreciate quite what I mean … so many species, so many colourful, beautiful birds, wow! It really is a birding paradise!

We photographed a number of raptors including Tawny Eagles, Bateleurs, African Hawk Eagles – the list is very long but someone kept count and we managed to photograph 43 different bird species on that one drive!

Then we heard of a young leopard and made our way there. He was sleeping peacefully but lifted his head from time to time, giving us a chance for some great shots. What a healthy young cat. In fact he is so young that he has not yet left his mother. We checked the area for her, but she was not there. Maybe she was out hunting or patrolling her territory.

This afternoon we went in search of Wild Dogs that were reported to be in the area. While on our way to them we photographed Southern Ground Hornbills as they walked along in that typical ungainly manner. Occasionally they made that deep uuuggghhh sound that so typifies them. They foraged for food as they wandered along, and then one used its beak to dig deep into the ground and pulled out a mouse! It tossed the mouse into the air, creating perfect photos for us.

Then we saw the dogs getting up in the distance and starting to greet one another. We rushed there, but when they had finished their greeting they napped for another 30 minutes or so. We waited patiently – and were rewarded.

The dogs decided it was time for action. They started to hunt. We followed them, cameras photographing every move, as the pack ran through long grass, stopped for some water and then continued their hunt – all the way into dense bush where we could not follow.

We returned to the young male leopard that we saw earlier and to our delight his mother arrived. She took him and the two started to walk swiftly and with determination.

As it was late we followed the duo for a short distance but as soon as they went into thick bush we turned towards the Lodge. However, in the morning we plan to try to find mother and son again because we probably believe that mom was leading her youngster to a kill …

Three ‘New’ Leopards with two Kills and a Lion Kill at Elephant Plains …

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Hendri’s Bulletin from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari:

We heard that Wild Dogs had been sighted yesterday afternoon, so as soon as we were on our vehicles this morning we went off to find them. No luck there!

While searching for the dogs we heard that a young male leopard had been sighted with a kill in a tree. Moments before we arrived, however, the agile cat jumped down from the tree with his kill and started to carry the baby impala carcass across the veld. Eventually he found a large Jackalberry Tree that seemed to suit his purpose and he hoisted the remains up onto a thick, sturdy branch. He settled down close to the carcass and after making himself comfortable he dozed off.

We weren’t sure how long the leopard’s sleep would be, so we moved off, deciding rather to follow up on a report about lions in the vicinity. We found a large pride, all sprawled out and showing no inclination to move at all. Their bellies looked very full, and they were very content to simply lie there, fast asleep, during the warm daylight hours.

This afternoon we tried to find the dogs again, but again we had no luck there. We returned to the young male leopard with his kill in the tree and to our surprise he had moved again. The only sign we could see were tracks that we followed, but our search was interrupted by a call to inform us that a female leopard with a cub had been spotted. It was very close by so we dashed there to find the cub up in a tree with a kill. The cub alternately ate, and then moved the kill to a different branch, then ate again and then moved the remains again. It just didn’t seem to be comfortable with any of the positions and moved the kill after each nibble.

The mother watched from her position under the tree where she rested. Eventually the cub came down to join mom, and as the late afternoon golden light was superb our photos were most satisfying. The cub flopped down next to the mother and she greeted the little one with plenty of grooming, licking and nuzzling.

It was dark by now and we hoped that the lions would be up and about, so we paid them a quick visit, hoping that they would be stirring. They were close to where we left them in the morning and surprisingly they had a kill – a White-tailed Mongoose. The lions were not hungry and left the youngsters to play with the kill. They dragged the carcass around, pounced on it, stole it from each other, ran away tauntingly, and then surrendered it to the next cub. It was great fun to watch. We used spotlights to capture the fun action until it was almost past time to return to the Lodge.

Tomorrow is our final morning for this safari and our plan is to return to the boisterous young lions again …

Six Separate Leopard Sightings in One Day at Elephant Plains …

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Hendri Shares His News from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari:

Well – what a lovely surprise as we woke up this morning. Clear skies and no hint of clouds. We left the Lodge just as the sky started to turn an early grey colour and to our delight we found a young male leopard very close to the Lodge. He is new to the area and therefore still a little skittish. He was very cautious about allowing us too close so we remained at a respectful distance so as not to alarm him. He is a handsome young fellow with a pink nose. Very photographable.

We were still with the young male leopard when we heard that another leopard had been spotted. This time we found a young female lying on a termite mound. She looked lovely in the early light. When she moved from one termite mound to the next – and the next – and the next, we followed, taking photographs of the relaxed young cat all the while.

Almost unbelievably, we found a third leopard. This young female had killed a baby impala moments before our arrival, but she had fled way up into the safety of a dense tree where she was quite obscured by thick foliage. Hyenas circled the base of the tree, gazing upward and hoping that scraps, or even the whole kill would drop. But not many bits and pieces dropped while we were there.

This afternoon our first major stop was to photograph an elephant in a riverbed. Just then a call came through about a male leopard close to the reserve boundary. As we arrived he jumped down from the termite mound where he had been resting and walked directly towards us. He is a large, strong, older cat, and we could see his powerful muscles as he walked close to us before he disappeared into a neighbouring territory.

A Rhino with a three month old calf was next. It was wonderful to see them and we remained with them for a while.

A fifth leopard for the day was next! We found this male close to a dam. We saw hyenas milling around, watching the cat intently and realised that he must have a kill close by. We actually wondered if it was the same young skittish male that we saw early this morning as his behaviour was similar, but we were in a different area of the reserve, so we are unsure whether he travelled this far during the day. We looked around for a kill, but couldn’t see anything like that.

We decided to return to the female leopard with the kill in the tree. On the way there, and still a few kilometres away, we found her out in the open. She was stalking a herd of impala. We stopped, cameras ready. As she crept closer to the impalas hyenas arrived on the scene and chased her into a tree. Thwarted!

By now the sun had set and we needed spotlights to photograph the leopard up in the tree. When she came down from the tree we followed her for about forty-five minutes as she made her way through the bush. As she moved along she hunted anything and everything – mice, frogs, anything small was fair game for her. It was enthralling to watch her in action.

So after a very full day with six leopard sightings (four or five different leopards) we are back at the Lodge, ready to compare our images and to share and recount the events of the day. Hopefully tomorrow will be as productive …

Nine Adult Hyenas Intimidated by a Warthog at Elephant Plains …

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Hendri Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari:

We headed straight back to the hyena den this morning to see what the outcome was from that very strange visit from the very unwelcome warthog that arrived and made itself at home with the hyena pups in the burrow.

We arrived at the den to find nine large adult hyenas milling around – and the warthog was still there. The hyenas were totally perplexed and didn’t even try to engage the warthog in any type of confrontation. In fact every time the warthog approached the hyenas they all scattered with their tails between their legs. There was great confusion as pups ran around excitedly in all directions, while the adults fled and then came slinking back slowly, only to dash off again as the warthog turned to face them. It was tremendously exciting to watch as the determined warthog tried to take over the den.

We heard a leopard calling not far away and tried to locate it, but no luck there. But the diversion gave us time to take a deep breath and to calm down after the earlier drama.

We moved on and found White Rhinos. It was a superb sighting with Oxpeckers busy on the backs and faces of the rhinos.

Our second vehicle bumped into a young female leopard – the same young cat that we saw the other day. We joined them immediately and found her as she posed beautifully on top of a termite mound. There was no obstruction which made for some superb photography. We photographed her from all angles, close-ups, side views, wide-angle shots, you name it.

Then the rain came down quite heavily and we decided that it would be a good time to return to the Lodge for breakfast and a rest before the afternoon safari.

We returned to the young leopard as soon as we left the Lodge this afternoon. During our absence she had made another kill. She was lying under a tree feeding on her kill. We watched as she finished eating and then started to walk away. We hoped that she was on her way to a waterhole for a drink, but after she had strolled along for about five hundred meters she found a comfortable spot to lie down.

During our break at the Lodge we heard that two of the large Birmingham male lions had been seen and we thought it would be an idea to take a chance and to follow up on that sighting. On our way there we found a lone lioness. She was calling repeatedly, but there was no response. We arrived at the male lions to find them flat out, fast asleep. The sun had just set, so our spotlights came out. After a few photographs we made way for another vehicle and rather returned to the lone female. She was on a termite mound, but she was very restless and started to walk and call again. We followed her with our spotlight as she walked along and called nonstop.

Before we returned to the Lodge we detoured past the male lions again for more spotlight work. By now we have quite an impressive collection of lion shots in spotlights.

In the morning we would like to return to the lions, hoping that they will be more active …

A Successful Leopard Hunt with a Small Twist at Elephant Plains …

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Hendri Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari:

As planned we first tried to find the Wild Dog pack again this morning, but there was simply no sign of them.

However, we found fresh leopard tracks and started to follow these. Our search was interrupted when we heard about a pair of lions that were mating. We arrived to find them resting and although the male tried to stimulate some interest in the female she was not at all interested and rebuffed his advances very firmly.

She wanted nothing to do with him. He gave up and the two wandered off to an open area at Big Dam where everyone was able to get some really good shots of the honeymoon couple.

Soon after that we were very pleased to see some White Rhinos lying in a cool muddy patch where they tried to counteract the heat of the day.

There are numerous herd of elephants here, and throughout the morning and afternoon drives we saw quite a few of them, including a breeding herd with calves of different ages enjoying themselves at a waterhole, splashing and spraying water everywhere to cool down.

A Side-striped Jackal was going about his business, foraging around the bush. I am not sure why, but he looked really scruffy. At least he was close to us and we could capture some great photographs of the unkempt fellow.

This afternoon we followed up on the leopard tracks that we saw in the morning. We noticed that there were both male and female tracks and came to understand that they are mating – but where?

Then we found a young female leopard. She was stalking a Scrub Hare and managed to flush it out into the open on the airstrip where she chased it at full speed. It was so very exciting. She managed to catch the hare, and we had just decided that it was all over when the hare somehow managed to get away and dash in the direction of the bushes at the side of airfield. But the leopard went after her prey and grabbed it again. As she did this, the sounds brought hyenas running onto the scene and the young cat had no choice other than to bolt up the nearest tree. Unfortunately for her the tree was little more than a sapling, very slender and very precarious. So all she could do was to consume her kill right there and then, clinging uncomfortably to a branch that could just about bear her weight. The hyenas circled and jumped around the tree, hoping that the kill would be dropped. Our photographs of that encounter also turned out really well, and when the sun set our spotlights came out.

The hyenas finally gave up and slunk away. A few moments later the leopard dropped what little was left of the kill and jumped out of the tree. She ignored the remains and went to a nearby Waterhole where she had a welcome drink. Our spotlights highlighted her beautiful reflection in the water, and the setting was just right for some more very memorable images.

Back at the Lodge everyone compared notes and images, feeling extremely lucky that another day at the Sabi Sand Reserve delivered exactly what we all hoped for – and more. So, in the morning we may start with a search for the Wild Dogs again ..