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Sabi Sand Photo Safari

Sabi Sand Photo Safari: Who has a Day of Fun with a Beanbag? …

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Ben Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Who has a Day of Fun with a Beanbag? …

(Images from back of Ben’s Camera)

We set out in the early morning darkness, searching for any sign of predators. We drove directly to Big Dam to go in search of lions, but instead we found the female leopard named Ingrid. She is a super-cute young animal and is always very, very busy and full of mischief. This morning she was no different as she ran energetically through the grass, bounded up onto fallen logs, and seemed to delight in posing on any raised surface like a fallen tree, log, or termite mound.

We remained with the delightful cat for almost the entire morning, enjoying and photographing her boisterous antics. Finally, she seemed to tire somewhat and went to lie down on the ground right next to our vehicle, where she promptly fell asleep.

We waited for her to wake up, and while we waited one of the photographers from our second vehicle accidentally dropped a beanbag. It fell to the ground on the same side as the dozing leopard. The soft sound woke Ingrid, and she immediately saw the beanbag. She slowly crept forward on her belly – inching slowly and carefully up to the item. Inch by inch she advanced until she was close enough to grab the beanbag. With it safely in her jaws she darted away – with us following behind as she ran. We thought that she would drop her ‘catch’, and we would be able to retrieve it. But no! She was so pleased with her acquisition that there was no way she was going to surrender it. She played with it on the ground, and then took it up into a tree where she happily played with it some more. She jumped all around in the tree with the beanbag, as we watched with great amusement. At times we just couldn’t stifle the laughter! She had a wonderful time, and when she disappeared with her prize into a thicket we realised that it was time to return to the Lodge. We were still smiling and chuckling at the leopard’s antics back at the Lodge.

This afternoon we found the young leopard in the same area where we had left her. To our amazement and amusement she still had the beanbag and was still playing with it! She chucked it around, caught it, dragged it, and seemed to have no end of fun with this strange article. We managed to get one or two images of her without the beanbag, which pleased us greatly.

Finally, after hours of fun, Ingrid lost interest in the beanbag and came to lie on a bank close to us. Just then we received a call that a pangolin had been sighted, but before leaving the leopard we actually managed to retrieve the beanbag!

We found the pangolin just as it was getting dark and quickly filled our memory cards with both daytime and nighttime images.

And as if that were not enough, Salayexe was very close to the pangolin so we spent our time alternating between the two.

What a day! That really was yet another special and very memorable day here, and we are all in very high spirits. Tomorrow we will probably try to catch up with Ingrid, that cutest of little leopards …

Sabi Sand Photo Safari: Busy Leopards …

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Hendri’s News from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains:

By sunrise we were away from the Lodge, – heading for another fabulous day. We started by searching for the leopard that gave us so much excitement yesterday. It was Anderson, the large, dominant male leopard and we left him last night with the remnants of his kill up in a Maroela Tree. By the time we arrived this morning only the head of his warthog kill remained, and he was right there with his remnants.

Under the tree, gazing up expectantly we saw a couple of lions, but having assessed the situation, the clearly decided that there was not enough there to interest them, and they pushed off.

We remained and managed to get some good images of Anderson eating what was left of his kill. Eventually there was so little left that the head dropped from the tree. The leopard thereupon came down from the tree and picked up the head, which he took into some thick bush where he lay down to continue chewing. As the viewing was not great at this stage we left him there.

We followed up on a report of a young female female leopard and managed to catch up with her while the light was still very good. She was very playful, running around, jumping up and down smaller trees, leaping onto logs and termite mounds, and altogether keeping us really busy with our cameras. We used quite a bit of back-lighting as well as front lighting. The young leopard kept us entertained for the remainder of the morning and it was with some surprise that we realised that it was almost past our time to return to the Lodge.

But we were a little delayed. We had a flat tyre. We stopped for it to be changed, and were joined by a very curious Hornbill. He kept us busy with our cameras as he watched us curiously …

This afternoon we returned to the female leopard again. We found her not far from where we left her this morning. She was in an open area and soon after we arrived she started to stroll towards Big Dam. She found something next to the water at the dam. It looked like a chunk of dried skin maybe, and she carried this away with her.

She found a dead tree stump near the dam and posed for us on the stump. It was great. She looked this way, then that, stretched, then peered over her shoulder, sat down and stood up. She gave us all the poses one could wish for! What a model! Then she started to chew on the remnant that she had picked up, giving us even more images.

She finally decided that she should move on, and when she disappeared into the darkness we started to make our way in the direction of the Lodge.

On the way we found a Civet, and used our spotlights to photograph him.

So, another fabulous day in this heavenly spot draws to a close as we prepare for dinner by telling anecdotes and jokes, and wondering at the amazing days we have enjoyed here so far – and tomorrow is yet to reveal its surprises …


Sabi Sand Photo Safari: A Leopard vs Hyena Scrap over A Kill …

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Ben Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains:

(Images from back of Ben’s Camera)

It was the final drive for our first group of guests and we set out, hoping that this would be a bumper ending to our safari and wow! Was it ever an eventful day!

The first thing we heard as we left the Lodge this morning was about a male leopard up in a tree with his kill below him that had been stolen by a hyena.

We went directly there to find a large female hyena eating greedily on the warthog kill that she had managed to get from the leopard. The leopard had grabbed the warthog as it emerged from its burrow. A chase followed into the bush where the leopard caught the warthog, and headed for a tree. But there had been no time to kill the warthog, and it managed to wriggle free and fell to the ground under the tree. There, the waiting hyena took full advantage of the moment and within seconds the warthog was dead, and the hyena settled down to consume her bounty, watched by the hungry, angry, unfortunate leopard above. The leopard was furious, and snarled and growled ominously, but the hyena remained unconcerned and continued eating voraciously.

The hyena ate more and more of the warthog, until the leopard couldn’t take it any more. The furious snarls and growls went unheeded, so it decided to take action and get his meal back. He came down from the tree, and as soon as he hit the ground he bolted towards the hyena and warthog. The hyena responded and a scrap ensued. The sounds were quite heart-stopping, and although they were behind a bush, some people managed to capture some images. It was terrifying. The leopard lost the scrap and went back up the tree.

Eventually the hyena was so full it could barely walk, and having had enough by now it left. The leopard quickly came down from the tree, grabbed what was left of the warthog and went back up the tree, where it settled down to eat.

We left the scene, and before long we found a beautiful, large, healthy male lion. He was accompanied by his pride of three females and six cubs.we didn’t stay long as the light was already quite harsh, and it was time to return to the Lodge.

This evening we returned to the leopard kill with his warthog in the tree. When we arrived the leopard was on the ground, so we hung around, hoping that he would go back up the tree. We waited for ages for him to go back up the tree as we wanted images of him climbing up – and eventually, after two hours of patient waiting he climbed the tree. It was dusk by now, and we all got some great images as he went all the way to the upper branches to where his kill was stashed.

We returned to find the lions again but they had moved on, so we returned yet again to the leopard for spotlit images of him feeding.

After that truly exciting, amazing day we have returned to the Lodge, still feeling quite thrilled by the events that we witnessed. It was wonderful! And tomorrow we would like to check on the leopard again before sunrise …

Sabi Sand Photo Safari: A Hapless Leopard Goes Hungry …

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Hendri Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: A Hapless Leopard goes Hungry …

The day dawned much brighter, but chilly today, and we were on our vehicles long before the spectacular sun painted the sky with those bright, beautiful, warm early morning tones. The African sunrise really is something to get excited about each and every time …

We started with a bang! We had barely left the Lodge when we received a call about lions on a kill. We arrived to find that not only did the lions have the kill, they had stolen the impala ram kill from a leopard! The hapless male leopard sat directly above the lions as they devoured his hard-earned meal. He looked so disconsolate – and to make matters worse, he was unable to descend from the tree … there were just too many lions there, and they were eating fiercely and voraciously. So the poor fellow just had to sit and watch his meal disappear.

But there was good photography for us as long as the lions ate, scrapped with one another for tasty morsels, and made sure that there were no leftovers! Meanwhile the cubs had a great time. They played with all the bits and pieces that the adults didn’t want. When they got hold of the horns the game really took off as the little ones dragged the horns around, pounced on each other to capture the prize, and ran around, tumbling, and being just too cute for words.

Then we heard male lions roaring on the distance, and immediately the lionesses at the kill started to move in that direction. By now there was nothing left of the kill, and the pride was quite content to move on.

At last the leopard could descend from the tree, giving us some more great photo opportunities. As soon as he hit the ground he started to run, and within seconds he disappeared into the bush. There was no way we could follow – he was just too fast.

So we decided to follow the lions for a while for more images of them on the move this time. Then we thought that it might be an idea to circle around in the direction that the leopard had headed.

And guess what! Luck was on our side! We found the leopard without too much ado, and followed him as he made his way through the bush.

Suddenly he started to run … what now? The lions? But no – he had spotted a warthog hole. He sat right in front of the hole, and peered intently at it.

If there was a warthog there it showed no sign of emerging, and the leopard clearly did not want to stick his head into the hole. Eventually he gave up and moved off into the undergrowth.

As we headed back to the Lodge we unbelievably bumped into the same leopard yet again!

This afternoon we concentrated on general game until after sunset when we found another leopard – a young female this time. We used our spotlights and spent the entire time with her until it was time to return to the Lodge.

Having been so incredibly lucky with our sightings today we cannot help wondering if we will see the male leopard again tomorrow …

Sabi Sand Photo Safari: A Drizzly Day with Lion, Leopard, Genet …

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Ben Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains:

(Images from back of Ben’s Camera)

We woke up to an overcast, drizzly, bleak day.

However, there was still plenty to see. Besides the usual general game, we did find Tiyane. The beautiful young leopard was walking along through quite thick bush, and when she emerged it was for a few seconds each time before she disappeared again for a few minutes. So we had to have our cameras ready, and click away very quickly whenever the opportunity arose. It was quite difficult to keep pace with her because of the thick bush, but the fleeting opportunities we had for photography were really worth while. And as always it was really exciting to follow her as she made her way through the tall grass and bush.

Eventually we lost her, but as soon as we set out again this afternoon we went in search of her, but there was no sign of her anywhere.

We did find a male lion, but as he was lying totally flat, fast asleep, we left him and went in search of more interesting sightings.

There were two White Rhinos not far from a dam, and as they seemed to be heading towards the water we waited, and followed them. They arrived at the dam where we were able to photograph them drinking at the water.

A flock of Senegal Lapwings flew back and forth, around and in front of the rhinos, giving us some interesting shots. We focussed on the birds in the foreground with the rhinos in the background. Yep, they turned out well!

After that we returned to the sleeping lion, hoping that with he would wake up as it was night time. However, he just lay there, not at all interested in getting up or even bothering to lift his head, so we started to make our way back to the Lodge for dinner.

On the way back to the Lodge we found a small Spotted Genet in a tree next to the road. We had time for a few pics before he climbed down from the tree and disappeared into the night.

So after a relatively quiet day we are back at the Lodge now, sipping our pre-dinner cocktails and ready for a scrumptious meal …

Sabi Sand Photo Safari: Lions, Leopards – and a Pangolin …

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Hendri Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains:

We panned to try and find Salayexe this morning before sunrise. With this goal in mind we set out before sunrise and headed to where we left the leopard yesterday.

But before we even reached that spot we encountered a pride of lions. There were four females and six cubs, so ten in all. It was a little cloudy, but every now and again the sun broke through, sending shafts of golden light that pierced the early grey morning. The filtered light looked quite magical and lit up the scene with an indescribable beauty. It was breathtaking!

The setting was so beautiful that we stayed with the pride for simply ages. Then the pride woke up and started to walk around. They crossed the road and disappeared into the bushes, so we continued our journey – this time to check on the leopard that we saw in the tree yesterday.

We found the leopard high up in the tree, where she played around with the remains of her kill. She moved the carcass from one branch to another, but then changed her mind and moved it moved it again – and again.

As we left the Lodge this afternoon for our afternoon game drive we got news of a pangolin sighting and immediately drove there. However, the animal moved into thick bush before we arrived, so we decided to return later. What a good decision that was! When we returned the pangolin started to move around, and to everyone’s delight it scuttled out into the open, where we were all able to not only get a fabulous view of the creature, but also some outstanding images. It was great! And for many of our group it was their first ever pangolin sighting.

After this, our next exciting sighting was of Tiyane, a truly beautiful female leopard. We followed her as the sun set, and when darkness arrived we took out our spotlights for side lit images.

So after another wonderful day in the bush we are back at the Lodge, looking forward to our starlit dinner in the boma, and debating where to start our safari in the morning …

Sabi Sand Photo Safari: A Very Successful First Game Drive – and Salayexe …

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Ben Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains:

DHere we are – back at Elephant Plains in the amazing Sabi Sand Reserve, and it is amazing how the bush has altered since we left a few short weeks ago. It is very dry, which from the perspective of visibility is great. Animals are so much easier to spot as winter marches on, with shorter grass and sparse foliage.

We had a wonderful first game drive this afternoon, going into evening. When everyone arrived and had a meal we gathered for a quick briefing before we set out. During this time we heard that Salayexe had been spotted during the morning, so we headed straight to the spot where she was last seen, and found her immediately. She was out, flat, not moving, so we left her to rest during the warm afternoon.

There were lions very close by, so we opted to go to them instead. They were also quite flat, not doing much. Then one of the pride came ambling past us with the remnants of a warthog head in his mouth. That made for some super photo opportunities.

The lions all settled down and went to sleep, showing no sign of movement. Just then we heard that another leopard had been spotted in a tree, so we quickly made our way to that area. The drive took us about twenty minutes, and we arrived about a half hour before sunset. Perfect!, we thought as we positioned our vehicles to capture the bright orange setting sun below the branch of the Marula tree where the leopard reposed. Everything was ideal, except that the cat climbed down to lower branches on an adjacent Bush Willow where she settled herself only about two meters from the ground. So we repositioned ourselves to photograph her as she sat there. The pictures we managed to get were excellent, but not quite as amazing as they might have been had she stayed up in the higher branches of the Marula tree.

When the leopard decided to leave the are we went back in search of Salayexe. We found her after a while and spent about a half hour with her in the dark. We used our spotlights to photograph her. It is always such a pleasure to see this ‘friendly’ cat as she is completely relaxed with our visits.

In the morning we plan to return to Salayexe before first light …

Sabi Sand Photo Safari: A Leopard Finds Two Lionesses with a Kill …

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Sabi Sand Photo Safari: A Leopard Finds Two Lionesses with a Kill …

Brendon Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains:

(Photos from Back of Brendon’s Camera)

As we left the Lodge early this morning we wondered if another day could possibly match our experiences and excitement of the previous days.

We headed towards Big Dam because there is a lot of leopard activity in the area at the moment. We found so many tracks, and followed and followed, losing tracks and finding others, but we continued with dogged determination … until eventually we discovered a young female up in a tree. It was so rewarding to find her. There was a brilliant blue sky behind her, and she lay on a nicely exposed branch. She is young and healthy and we spent quite some time photographing her. To our delight she got up, stretched, and then came down from the tree, giving us a chance to capture climbing down shots. We followed her as she walked through the bush but had to give up after a while as it was time to return to the Lodge.

While we were tracking this morning we of course saw plenty of general game like giraffe, zebra, impala, as well as two rhino, and many elephants. The latter seem to be everywhere here at the moment.

This afternoon we again saw plenty of giraffe, zebra, and elephants. And like this morning we saw another two rhinos.

A call came in about a large male leopard, so we dashed off to see him. He was lying down when we reached him, doing nothing, so we left him for a while, deciding to return a little later.

We returned to the leopard around sunset. He was up, and we took out our spotlights to photograph him as he walked around.

He is a very large, strong specimen, and interesting to follow. Especially when he walked into two lionesses. The lionesses had a new impala kill and were feeding busily when he arrived. We wondered what would happen … but the encounter was uneventful. He spotted the lionesses, but they were totally unaware of his proximity. They concentrated on feeding while the leopard quietly snuck away. He probably heard the sounds of the kill, and maybe thought it was another leopard … and not many leopards would be a match for this guy! He went to lie down not too far away.

So all in all we had another great day with some fabulous sightings and very successful photography again. It is the last game drive for this group in the morning – maybe we will look for the leopard again …

Sabi Sand Photo Safari: A Leopard Kill in One, Two, Three Seconds …

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Hendri Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains:

Well, after our amazing day yesterday, we were extra keen to get going this morning. The calm, predawn mysterious darkness enveloped the world around us as we set out from the Lodge after steaming hot coffee and rusks.

What a day awaited us … starting almost immediately –

About ten minutes after leaving the Lodge we spotted some Bushbabies (Galagos) in a tree. They were jumping around, playing as they leapt from branch to branch. Then we noticed that one of them disappeared into a hole in the tree. We waited for a while and sure enough, her head popped out again … we used our spotlights to capture images of the adorable little creature peeping out from her hiding place. What a special sighting!

We picked up some leopard tracks and followed these, zig-zagging through the bush as the tracks led us in all directions. While doing this we stopped now and then to photograph hyenas and numerous elephants as well as plenty of giraffe and other game. Maybe we took so long photographing all the game that we never actually caught up with that leopard.

Then came the afternoon … a wow!

First we followed some fresh leopard tracks, but we were interrupted by a call alerting us to two lionesses with two small cubs. We found them out in the open, basking and playing in the warm afternoon light. We spent a wonderful time with them as the cubs tumbled over the adults, worried them, fell around with each other and gave us so much to capture … every moment seemed more endearing than the previous as cubs and lionesses interacted, with many playful taps, and plenty of licks.

We moved from there to a pride of twelve lions – a Birmingham male accompanied by five adult lionesses and five cubs. The cubs were about five months old.

We heard of a leopard in the vicinity and found her without too much fuss. Out came our spotlights for all the different lighting angles that we could manage. Back-lighting, side-lighting, front-lighting … we did it all.

Then she moved along and we realised that she was starting to hunt. She was very quick and before we knew it she chased and caught a Scrub Hare. It was all done in a flash. She posed beautifully for us with her kill, and we remained with her until it was time to return to the Lodge.

As you can imagine, everyone is beyond delighted with another outstanding day … and hoping that our luck hold for our final full day with this safari group tomorrow …


Sabi Sand Photo Safari: A Close-up Lion Experience …

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Brendon Reports from the Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains:

(Photos from back of Brendon’s Camera)

As anticipated we were on our vehicles in the chilly predawn darkness, ready to experience what the day held in store for us. As we prepared to leave the Lodge we heard lions calling in the distance, and headed in that direction.

It was not long before we found fresh lion tracks – a single male – and we tracked these until we found him lying next to a waterhole. He was fast asleep when we arrived, and we waited until the early morning rays of the sun reached him and created such a beautiful sight that our cameras were very busy indeed.

As the sun hit him, the lion sat up, looked around lazily, and then slowly got up and started to walk towards the east. He really is a handsome, healthy, strong specimen of a lion, and it was a pleasure to share that time with him, and to photograph the strikingly beautiful big cat.

When we moved on we saw a large male rhino, and stopped with him for a while to collect photographs as he ignored us and grazed peacefully. There are numerous herds of elephants around and we stopped many times to capture more and more images.

After our coffee stop we heard that Salayexe had been spotted up in a smallish Marula Tree, and it took a few moments for us to catch up with her. She is such a cooperative leopard and she gave us plenty of time to photograph her up in the tree before she descended from the tree to continue her morning patrol. She had stopped for a quick rest, and as soon as she felt re-energised she was on her way again.

As it was time to return to the Lodge we headed back for our meal and a rest.

This afternoon we headed straight back to Salayexe, and although we found her tracks, these led into an area with thick, dense vegetation, and we were unable to follow.

We passed loads of elephants as we continued to the east, where we found another male lion. He was also fast asleep when we arrived, but soon after the sun went down he woke up and we were able to use our spotlights for different types of shots – with back lighting, side-lighting, and closeup portraits.

When he heard lions calling from quite far away, the lion started to roar in response. Now that is something that is beyond impressive – a lion roaring right next to you! The sound seems to envelop you in waves … it feels as though it goes right through you. It is one of the most awesome sounds that one can experience in the bush, and we all sat there, watching him, listening, and thoroughly appreciating the moment! Phenomenal!

So, after another fabulous day here at Elephant Plains, and with our memory cards filled with great images, we are enjoying our pre-dinner drinks, more than happy with our day. In the morning we need to decide whether to go in search of Salayexe or the lions again …