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Wim van den Heever

A Very Exciting Day in the Life of a Leopard and Her Cub …

By Okavango Photo Safari No Comments

Wim Shares News from the Okavango Photo Safari:

Another fabulous day!

As we left this morning we very quickly came across a female leopard that had made a kill not long before we found her. She was beset by hyenas and tried valiantly to defend the remains from the ongoing, uninterrupted approaches from the scavengers. The tussle continued with the leopard trying to protect her impala from all sides. We watched, cameras busily capturing every tense, exciting moment of the interaction. But the battle was very one-sided with the lone leopard being totally outnumbered. She eventually had to give up, and retreated to watch the hyenas with her kill on the ground from a nearby low tree branch.

Then to our amazement we noticed a small leopard cub aged about four months peeking from the foliage of a neighbouring Leadwood Tree. Mother and cub watched the hyenas squabbling over what should have been their meal. There was plenty of action for the cats to watch as the hyenas yipped, scrapped, snarled, growled, and occasionally chased one another when a tasty morsel was grabbed.

The mother then decided that enough was enough! She started to approach the hyenas, but as soon as they saw her they forgot their meal and chased her – back into a different tree.

And then, much to our surprise, the hyenas gave up and started to shuffle away – away from the kill, away from the scene!

The female returned to the tree where her cub still sat on a branch. She settled close to him, while the half eaten carcass remained on the ground under the tree.

We remained with the leopards for the entire day. It turned out to be one of the best ever days one could wish for with a mother leopard and her cub. They played, moved from branch to branch, to neighbouring trees and fallen logs, and onto tree stumps. They posed and interacted for most of the day, giving us every opportunity imaginable to photograph them with different techniques, actions, portraits – you name it, we captured them all. We filled our cameras with phenomenal images. The cub then became very interested in our vehicle, and played around and under the strange object. It stalked the tyres, hid under the bumpers, peeped out to locate mom and then crept up on her, while she pretended not to notice. Every moment brought something new and precious!

We remained with the two until evening when they walked about a kilometre to a pan where they stopped for a long, relaxed drink together. They were very comfortable with our presence and were right next to the vehicle all the time.

As the sun set and we would need spotlights to continue photographing the two, we rather called it a day. We did not want to risk using lights on such a young cub, and elected to return to the camp, more than ecstatic with another incredible day.

We are ready for whatever tomorrow brings …

A Day of Unbelievable Excitement Leaves us Dumbfounded …

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Wim Shares Amazing News from the Okavango Photo Safari:

We left the camp shortly before sunrise. After driving around for a short while we found two cheetahs moving around slowly. The mother and her subadult son were not really going about with much purpose so when we received word about a leopard in a tree with an impala kill we quickly raced to that sighting.

We arrived to find not only the leopard and the kill in the tree with her subadult cub. A male leopard arrived on the scene intent on stealing the kill from the female.

He leaped up into the tree – and just then nine lionesses arrived, also wanting to pinch the kill.

It was so exciting to watch. We didn’t take our eyes from the action for a second. The lions milled around the base of the tree, constantly looking up to decide their next action. And their next move caused our heartbeats to hammer so much that we felt that even we held our breath, our heartbeats were surely audible. Why? One of the lions leaped up into the tree! The female leopard ran away, leaving her cub with the kill, the male leopard, and the lioness in the tree! Wow!

The lion managed to reach the kill and proceeded to move it around until it dropped to the ground. As the carcass dropped the whole pride grabbed it, and the fighting, tussling, snarls, spitting, swiping vicious claws at each other created a terrifying, frenzied scene. The two leopard left in the tree watched very uneasily, and we could see that the male was really keen to leave the action far behind. He was most unhappy. On several occasions he attempted to leave the tree but each time he would try, there were just too many lions.

Eventually the Leopard managed to get about half way down the huge tree. We wondered what he would do next? Oh my goodness!

Who would have guessed – the hapless leopard flew through the air and hurtled to the ground! We were shocked, astounded, and almost dropped our cameras. And as soon as the lions saw the leopard they were onto him. This is the end, we thought. But the leopard managed to bolt away, but not far away – about 50 meters further on he leaped into another tree, with lions once again all around the base of that tree …

The lions gave up on the leopard after a few minutes and returned to the tree where they had eaten the stolen impala, and the leopard took the opportunity to slink away and disappear into the bush! Whew! The action!

After all that excitement we returned to the camp for lunch and when we set out again in the afternoon we headed to the two cheetahs we saw on the morning drive. We found them starting to hunt. They climbed termite mounds to check the area for prey, and luckily for us, the lighting was glorious, and the cheetahs seemed to choose the most ideal mounds and spots for photography. When they spotted two impala they started to stalk them in earnest. We – and the cheetahs – were unaware that the impala were being stalked by a leopard!

The next moment the impala spotted one of cheetah and started to run. The leopard then saw the cheetahs and started to chase the two! It was unbelievable action! The cheetahs ran away, and being much faster than the leopard, they easily outstripped him. After about 100 meters they settled on a termite mound to watch their pursuer. The leopard advanced close enough for us to photograph him with the cheetahs. When he came a bit too close the cheetahs got up and ambled off into a thicket just as the sun was setting.

What a day! After sundowners we returned to the camp, still excited and somewhat dumbfounded at the events on both game drives. Wow! What could tomorrow hold for us …

Three Different Cat Species on our First short Game Drive …

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Wim Shares News from the Okavango Photo Safari:

We arrived at Chitabe camp after a pleasant flight, and although it was already 15:30 by the time we landed, our cameras were ready for action. As soon as we arrived at the stunning, brand-new camp at Chitabe we checked in and gave ourselves only a few minutes to down a delicious high tea before we were set to start our first game drive.

We were very keen to follow up on reports of a cheetah sighting during the morning, and with this in mind we drove to the relevant area. And yes! There they were! Three cheetahs together – a mother with her two subadult cubs. As the sun was close to the horizon the lighting was perfect, golden and warm. We photographed the cats until we received a report about lions close by.

We moved on from the cheetahs and found two male lions lying peacefully under a tree. Because the duo was fast asleep we decided to stop for a quick sundowner at a beautiful, scenic, open spot. We watched as the sun dipped below the horizon as we chatted and marvelled at the beauty around us.

On our drive back to the camp we were lucky enough to come across a Civet. What a start to our safari! Three different cat species on one very short game drive.

Back at the camp we are ready for dinner and then an early night to prepare for our very early start in the morning …

Tiny Lion Cubs and Later a Cheetah Kill in Front of our Vehicle …

By Okavango Savuti & Chobe Photo Tour No Comments

Wim’s Update from the Savute Elephant Lodge on the Okavango Savute & Chobe Photo Tour:
(Photos Courtesy of and Thanks to UliHB))

As we left camp we spotted Wild Dog tracks and started to follow them. They led us along the Savute Channel and we could see that we were just moments behind them. Sometimes a vehicle would disappear up ahead and when we turned the bend, dog tracks would cover the vehicle tracks. But we just could not catch up with them. The dogs were hunting and running swiftly in and out of the bushes, but as I said, they eluded us.

Then we found fresh lion tracks and followed those instead all the way past Marabou Pan.

Eventually we found four lionesses and to our delight they were accompanied by five of the cutest little one month old cubs and two baby cubs less than a week old. Their eyes had just opened. The two tiny cubs just wanted to be with their mother and each time they were separated even for a short second or two, they would cry for her, and then suckle when she moved close again. It was wonderful to watch the family interaction with the tender care of the little cubs while the more robust one month old cubs romped and staggered around as they played and suckled alternately.

We stopped for a coffee break and returned to the Lodge for a delicious lunch. On the way we weren’t really paying much attention to our surroundings as the thought of lunch had all our attention. We almost missed a leopard sitting in a wide open area only about twenty meters from the road. We stopped for photographs as the sighting was so superb.

This afternoon we decided to return to the lions. On the way, we had just passed the old airstrip when we found a female leopard. She was stalking some game and we remained with her for a while.

Then we heard that cheetahs had been spotted not far away and we decided to detour that way before continuing to the lions.

We found the cheetahs close to Marabou Pan and as we arrived the cheetahs broke cover, ran across an open area and pulled down an impala right in front of our vehicle.

We hardly had time to aim our cameras, it was all that quick. It all happened about thirty meters from us, and the kill was so fast that we hardly had time to register what had happened before it was all over.

We remained with the feeding cheetahs until it was time to return to the Lodge, and decided that we would continue our trip to the lions with their little cubs again in the morning …

A Lion Kill in Front of Us in the Dark …

By Okavango Savuti & Chobe Photo Tour No Comments

Wim’s Update from Khwai River Lodge on the Okavango Savute & Chobe Photo Tour:
(Photos Courtesy of UliHB and from back of Dawie’s Camera)

A cold front moved in overnight and we woke to a bitterly cold morning. During the night we heard lions roaring continuously along the river close to us. We went out to find them but as we left the Lodge, less than 500 meters away, we found a young leopard. He was a little skittish at first, and then to our surprise we saw Blue Eyes, that uniquely beautiful female leopard very close by. She was engaged in typical predawn leopard behaviour. She ran around and jumped up any and all vantage points, fallen logs, termite mounds – anything that gave her a good view of the area. She was hunting for whatever would provide a meal and we were able to collect an awesome number of fabulous photos of her activities, initially with spotlights, and then with the rising sun. We were alone with her for almost two hours until another vehicle arrived and we moved on.

We heard that there were lions along the Khwai channel and and started to head towards them when we found another leopard – another female. She was draped across a branch of a beautiful leadwood tree. The tree branches stretched right across the road and it was amazing to look up and see the magnificent animal almost above us.

She moved from branch to branch and we were able to photograph her as she leaped about the tree in search of the most comfortable spot and best vantage point.
Finally she climbed down from the tree and wandered off into the bush.

By now it was almost midday and we had to return to the camp.

Our afternoon drive started with another attempt to reach the lions. This time we reached the Khwai channel where we encountered several herds of elephants that arrived to drink, splash, and play in the water. We watched in awe as different herds met up, greeted each other, and then bathed and drank water together. Herd after herd arrived, and each time the activities started with friendly greetings. It was fabulous and really heartwarming to watch.

It was late afternoon when we finally reached the lions. We watched them as they awoke and greeted each other, interacting with each member of the pride. We had only 30 minutes of daylight left and when the lions started to walk away into the gathering darkness we followed, using our spotlights to capture their progress.

Realising that the lions were on their way to a waterhole we went ahead of them and set everything ready to wait. Near the waterhole we saw impala and other animals. We waited and within a few moments the lions arrived at the water. We switched off our lights as they would interfere with any hunting plans. The next moment the bush erupted with alarm calls that seemed to come from different animals. In the dim light we saw lions hurtling across an open area while dark shadows, maybe wildebeest, fled away from them. We quickly turned the lights on for a second or two and saw animals fleeing in all directions. We switched off the lights and with bated breath we went towards the excitement and tumult. We found that the lions had caught a wildebeest and were still taking it down. The lions were really hungry as they had not eaten for a number of days, and we watched as they were finally able to enjoy a meal.

Whew! By now it was 20:30 and way beyond our return to camp time. We enjoyed a very late supper and then fell into bed exhausted after one of the most amazing days any had imagined – especially when we thought that that cold would mean a quiet, uneventful day.

In the morning we would like to check on the lions again …

A Giraffe Braves A Drink …

By Okavango Savuti & Chobe Photo Tour No Comments

Wim’s News from Khwai River Lodge on the Okavango Savute & Chobe Photo Tour:
(Photos from back of Wim’s Camera)

We left the camp in the mysterious early darkness, quite a while before sunrise. The darkness was emphasised by a heavily overcast, gloomy sky. We went to the Mogotlo area that we reached just as the first shards of grey could be seen, heralding the dawn.

We searched for Wild Dogs that we believed were in the Mogotlo area, but could not find them.

We changed direction to follow the Chobe Cut Line and there we found nine lions. They were lying next to a pan, and by now the lovely soft light meant that we could take some beautiful photographs of the lions lying relaxed and unconcerned in the early dawn.

The next moment we looked up to see a giraffe sauntering along. It approached to not more than fifty meters from us and casually went to the waters edge where it adopted that clumsy stance to drink. Meanwhile, as soon as the lions became aware of the giraffe they all went into full hunting mode. They crouched low to the ground and remained rigid, with heads Low and ears flattened.

We had front row seats of all the action, and watched incredulously as the lions crept close to the unperturbed giraffe. The giraffe did not see them, and we all held our breath, pulses racing, and with our cameras ready. It was nerve-wracking and incredibly exciting.

Suddenly the giraffe stopped drinking, lifted its head, and without looking in the direction of the lions it somehow sensed their presence and bolted away with those long strides that cover a distance in very little time. The lions didn’t bother to chase their rapidly disappearing prey, and rather returned to their restful morning.

After the excitement we turned towards the Lodge and started a slow drive back. We passed a magnificent herd of elephants drinking, bathing, and splashing at the Khwai river and were able to photograph them at eye level.

We arrived back at the Lodge just in time for Lunch, after which we enjoyed a Lightroom session – and then we were off again for our afternoon game game.

We found a female leopard and remained with her although it was difficult at times as she was moving through very thick bush. It was almost a cat and mouse game as we kept finding her as she emerged from the dense undergrowth but then disappeared again – and again. Finally she chose an open termite mound in full view and obliged us by posing on the mound until well after sunset. Out came our spotlights and we practised different backlighting, side-lighting, and rim-lighting techniques.

On the way back to the Lodge we came across two honey badgers. What a way to end a very full and exciting day.

In the morning we may try to locate those Wild Dogs again …

Leopards and more on a very short Game Drive …

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

We arrived at the Lodge after delayed flights and travel. It was sunset by the time we dashed out for our first dame drive, but we were determined not to miss even a moment in the bush.

And in that short time we have been here we have managed to see more amazing wildlife than many do in a whole day. Can you believe … not one, but two different leopards! They disappeared quite quickly into Mopane bush, so that other than a few grab shots, photography was not great. But hey! Who is complaining?

Then we saw a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. He sat there, staring at us balefully while our cameras got busy.

There were some fabulous elephants and then a huge surprise – the Lodge treated us to an amazing dinner out in the bush, under the stars, and surrounded by the sounds and smells of the African bush. It was fabulous! .

A Leopard Hunt from Beginning to ???

By Sabi Sand Photo Safari No Comments

Wim Reports from Elephant Plains on the Tusk Sabi Sand Photo Tour:

(Photos: representative of species)

We set out very early again this morning. It was very quiet to begin, and we spent the time enjoying the morning bush air while keeping a look out for Predator tracks.

Then we encountered the female leopard that has here moved to a new territory from one of the surrounding reserves. We followed her for quite a long time. She passed through a drainage line where she abruptly walked into a mother rhino with a young calf. She approached to within about five meters from the rhino and calf. Both mother and calf were most unimpressed and chased her together, but not aggressively. It seemed to be quite a harmless charge and served more as an admonishment for getting too close. But it was a very exciting scene to witness and to photograph the two species together in a single frame was extra special.

When the leopard emerged from the drainage line she leaped onto a fallen tree and posed for us. We collected some beautiful images of her before we had to return to the Lodge where we enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast and then enjoyed Lightroom classes to enhance our images.

This afternoon we found the same female leopard again with ease. In fact we spent the remainder of our afternoon game drive with her. She was very busy. Her activities took her up and down trees, fallen branches and numerous termite mounds. She climbed everything she came across.

Then the mood changed. The leopard spotted a herd of impala and immediately went into stalking mode. We froze as she gradually crept closer and closer to the herd. We sat still and unmoving, eyes wide, pulses racing with the sheer tension and excitement, and barely daring to breathe. The excitement and tension mounted. There – she was barely five meters from an impala ram. Any moment now. We held our breath. Surely! We all thought the inevitable was a heart beat away.

But what now? She didn’t do anything. She was just one spring away from her prey, but for some reason she did nothing. It was so close, and she was so flat to the ground. And the impala was completely unaware of her presence. Who knows why she she decided not to make that final leap?

Anyway, it was an incredibly exciting hunt, and fabulous to watch the whole sequence of events.

We stuck with the leopard, photographing her as she continued along her way, hunting periodically until a hyena pitched up and the leopard ran off into the bush where we could not follow her.

On the way back to the Lodge we detoured along a road where there have been sporadic reports of pangolin. And to our amazement and delight there it was! It was a fabulous experience, especially as in all my years in the bush, this was my first sighting of one of these creatures. We spent at least thirty minutes filling our cameras with images of the pangolin. It was simply the most perfect end to an exciting day, and everyone is in a totally euphoric mood.

Tomorrow we would like to check whether the leopard had any later hunting success …

A Large Pod of Orcas Delights …

By Falkland Photo Tour No Comments

Wim’s News from the Tusk Falkland Photo Tour:

After lunch yesterday we returned to the Gentoo colony on the beach. On the way we stopped to set up our cameras for remote work. How this works is we arrive before the penguins come along and we set up along the path that they always follow. Then as they return to that path we are able to photograph them at eye level without getting too close and interrupting them.

Then we continued to the beach where we waited for the Gentoos to return from their day at sea to reach their roosting spots before dusk. We waited expectantly for the first to arrive in that fascinating way that they jump and surf through the waves to reach the shore. Some very large groups of the penguins emerged from the surf together, sometimes as many as forty at a time. The beach is about a hundred meters wide, affording us plenty of time for excellent photographs.

At one stage I wanted to return to the vehicle for a different lens, and when I looked behind me on the wide beach I had an incredible and somewhat heart wrenching surprise … some Giant Petrels had flown in and attacked one of the Gentoos that had returned to the shore. They killed it and started to feed. It was quite amazing to witness nature at its most raw on this serene, beautiful island.

We waited on the beach for sunset and were rewarded with an entire sky that was lit was those breathtaking, shining colours that gradually deepen and darken, and leave one quite speechless.

This morning we went to the shallow pond with the lovely reflections again. It has been such a rewarding and beautiful spot that we simply had to return for the sunrise. This morning was even more spectacular, with a sunrise that is impossible to describe.

Suffice to say that it even surpassed our previous experiences here. The morning was a little windy, so the reflections were not as perfect as the day before, but wow! Those iridescent, glowing colours were dazzling!

There were more penguins at the pond than before this morning and we spent a lot of time photographing them. We watched with delight as a large number of youngsters played in the shallow water and we were able to capture some really superb shots.

We returned to the Elephant Seals where some of the youngsters were play-fighting and rolling around in the surf. As we concentrated on photographing these antics, a pod of Killer Wales, or Orcas, arrived in the bay directly behind the playing seals.

They remained there for the entire morning. They swam in circles, hovered around, went back and forth, and we suspect that they are hunting, hoping to intercept a penguin or two.

We waited and waited, watching the Orcas until we simply had to return for lunch. It was beautiful to watch the beautiful Whales (actually in spite of the name they are not really Whales, but the largest dolphin species) and when they approached to within twenty meters of where we stood on a rock, our excitement rose to extreme heights. We could see them very clearly, and we noticed a massive male among the others. His immense size really made him stick out from the other members of his pod. And we counted nine or ten youngsters as well.

We are enjoying a quick lunch now, and plan to return to the Orcas as soon as we can. We already feel extremely privileged and excited to be able to see these magnificent creatures in this exquisite setting …

Reflections from a Pristine, Heavenly Island …

By Falkland Photo Tour No Comments

Wim’s News from the Tusk Falkland Photo Tour:
Yesterday afternoon we piled into a LandRover and drove to a cliff from where we could watch Sea Lions down below.

They had a number of small pups that were frolicking in the shallow waters that lap the island. We walked through thickets of Tusset Grass that is really difficult to get through so that we could approach the beach and the Sea Lions. We arrived at a lovely sheltered area named Paradise Cove, where a single Sea Lion was surrounded by numerous Elephant Seals. We were able to approach them and spend quality time with them, photographing them all from very close.

 

We returned to the LandRover to visit the beach where the Gentoo Penguins return each afternoon after a day’s fishing in the ocean. We spent a fascinating and almost surreal afternoon watching the Penguins arrive. They ride the waves as they approach the shore, surfing or porpoising until the sea spits them gently onto the beach, from where they stroll up to the sandy beach.

It was thrilling and heart-stirring to watch and we sat quietly with our clicking cameras as more and more Penguins arrived and within moments surrounded us. That was such an amazingly special time … it is difficult to describe one’s feelings as you sit there on this beautiful, pristine beach, in the most glorious afternoon golden light watching the Gentoo Penguins porpoising and leaping through the waves right in front of you. It actually feels as though no man has trod this area before. This categorically is a nature-lovers dream! It is certainly a highlight of my life.

We enjoyed a fabulous sunset, with glorious, iridescent colours lighting the crystal clear sky and reflecting in the water.

This morning there was no wind at all so we visited a shallow pond where penguins sit and enjoy the sunrise each morning. The colours of the sunrise reflected in the pond around the penguins, creating yet another magical moment that touched one’s soul and provided fantastic photographic opportunities.

From there we went to the Elephant Seal beach and found a lone Sea Lion there as well. We managed to grab a few quick photos of him before he dashed off into the surf, all grumpy and noisily voicing his displeasure at our arrival.

A couple of young Elephant Seals were more welcoming and put on quite a show for us as they indulged in some boisterous play-fighting. They stood on their tails and tried to look as tall as possible while thrashing their heads and necks against each other. It looks really fearsome, but there is no damage and these youngsters actually seemed to look to us for approval from time to time.

Conditions here are really outstanding and we are enjoying lunch while we continue to marvel at the incredible experiences we have enjoyed thus far – while looking forward to another afternoon in this heavenly, unspoiled place …