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Sabi Sand Photo Safari

Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Mother Leopard with her Three Month Old Cub…

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

(Photos from Back of Hendri and Brendon’s Cameras)

After the fabulous days and sighting that we have enjoyed over the last few days, we wondered what the day would have in store for us as we set out from the Lodge. Well!, we were in for yet another superb day! …

We started by searching for any sign of a leopard or any cat, but as we could see no trace of any of them we thought it may be fun to visit the hyena den.

We arrived at the den just as the sun was beginning to rise and tiger they were! All the pups were out, playing and cavorting in those very first rays of the sun, and having a hilarious time. We spent and entertaining and often very amusing time as the pups rolled around, tried to catch each other and anything that moved, and seemed to simple enjoy being active and often mischievous.

Soon after we left the hyena den we bumped into that large male leopard, Anderson. He always looks so imposing and he was actually high on our wish list to see, so ticking him off our list was a plus. I guess that everyone hopes to see Anderson because of his intimidating size. We followed the large leopard until he disappeared into some bushes and we could no longer follow him.

And it felt like moments later that we found a pack of Wild Dogs. They were out on the airstrip, so visibility was perfect. As if that were not enough, they spotted some impala and started to chase them. But to no avail – the impala disappeared quickly.

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Now, that was not the end of our morning … there was another fabulous sighting waiting for us. This time we saw a mother leopard and her three month old cub. They were visible, but quite obscured by long grass, so although the sighting was amazing and we all enjoyed seeing the two together, photography opportunities were not the best.

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We returned to the Lodge feeling really lucky. We had seen so much on that one drive. Would our luck hold for the afternoon drive as well? Of course!

We set out and decided to return to the mother leopard with her cub. However, because the cub is so small, viewing is even more restricted than usual and we had to wait. We drove around and photographed plenty of general game, also herds of elephants and a White Rhino.

We arrived at the leopard and her cub just at sunset. This time the two were sitting on a log, and although still a little obscured by grass, we could see them quite well. Because of the setting sun we used flash photography, but because the cub is small, we did not try our spotlights.

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When we moved on, we though it may be worthwhile to see if the lions at the kill that we spotted a few days ago were still there. They were there and because it was pitch dark, we used the spotlights from different angles to create interesting and striking images.

It was difficult to believe that time had passed so quickly and we were quite surprised when we realised that it was already time to return to the Lodge. Wow, time certainly flies here!

In the morning we would like to return to the mother and cub again …




Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Leopard with an Old Bone …

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

First, an image of Salayexe from last night …

5 Brendon Salayexe with Scrub Hare

As always we left the Lodge before sunrise, hoping to maybe catch up with leopards in the eastern part of the reserve.

On the way we passed elephants – a definite stop for photographs there, and when we came across some rhino, that meant another stop for sure.

Close to the eastern area we picked up some fresh leopard tracks and followed these. The tracks led us to a young male leopard, and he was really enjoying his morning. He lay around relaxing in the long grass at first – which wasn’t great for photography. But we waited for a while … until he stood up, then walked around, and ended up at a small water pan where he stopped for a nice long drink. That gave us all time to capture some great images.

We started to head back in the direction of the Lodge, and to our delight we saw another rhino, a nice healthy male this time. And almost as a repeat of the drive in the opposite direction we also saw a couple of herds of elephants.

This afternoon started with yet more elephants. They were very close to our vehicles, and as the light had that lovely golden late afternoon glow, we took full advantage to photograph the elephants from all angles, with some very close close-ups.

We also stopped to photograph zebra and giraffe and then a few very smart looking nyala.

We gradually made our way towards the east where we saw the leopard this morning, and found him again without too much difficulty. He was lying in a grassy area again. After some time he got up and sauntered over to a large Leadwood tree that he climbed. The photography was great, and we hung around to see what he would do next. He eventually climbed down from the tree and went to fetch a small piece of something from what must have been a really old kill. He took his scrap to a dry river bed and there he settled down to chew on his find while we used our spotlight to capture many images.

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When the leopard disappeared into the bush we realised that it was time to return to the Lodge. On the way we saw a civet cat and shortly after, a genet. That was a fabulous way to end our day.


In the morning we may return to the young male leopard again …

Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Hunting, Stalking, Catches …

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Hendri Reports from Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: 

When we set out this morning we didn’t suspect what a busy day awaited us! And wow! It was everything one could hope for in the bush.

First of all, we had barely left the Lodge and it was still quite dark when we came across three young Spotted Hyenas with an adult, all sleeping in the road. Used our spotlights for some photographs before we decided to visit the hyena den that was very close to us.

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At the den all the youngsters were out, playing, chasing each other, fighting over random sticks, and generally having great fun. The interaction was wonderful to watch and we all enjoyed those moments.

We were still photographing the hyena shenanigans when we received a call that sent us hurriedly toward an area where reports told us that some lions were following a herd of buffalo.

We found the buffalo exactly where the reports said they would be, and it took just a moment or two for us to also locate the lions. They were stalking in earnest. The next moment everything erupted around us – one of the lionesses broke cover and chased the buffalo. The buffalo hurtled directly towards us with the charging lioness at their heels. Adrenaline rushed through our bodies and in the excitement and tension of the moment we very nearly forgot to press those shutter buttons!

Then some of the buffalos whirled around and headed towards the other lions – there were three lionesses and five cubs. It took a few moments before they all disappeared into the bushes – out of sight!

We drove around a drainage line to catch up with the lions and buffalo again, and when we found them again one of the lionesses was clinging with great determination to the back of one of the buffalos. We snapped as much as we could before the lioness was shaken off unceremoniously and probably exhausted by all the effort, both hunters and hunted gave up and lay down to rest.

Not far from that scene we encountered one of our favourite leopards – Salayexe. She was a cooperative as always and we ended the morning with some great images of Salayexe in a dry river bed.

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This afternoon we returned to where we last saw Salayexe. She was nowhere in sight, but fresh tracks showed us exactly where she was headed. We followed the tracks until we finally found her just before sunset. She was stalking impala, but they noticed her before she managed to get close and high-tailed it to safety. The leopard returned to the river bed, and walked around there before she emerged on the far side. We followed as well as we could, and we were beginning to think that this was a futile exercise because of the darkness and some rather thick bush.

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And at was at that moment, as we discussed driving away, that Salayexe suddenly pounced and caught a Scrub Hare. She walked around with her catch for a while, giving us great photo opps.

The next moment some hyenas arrived, probably after catching a whiff of fresh blood. Within a flash Salayexe fled into a tall Marula Tree with her kill. There she lay down on an exposed branch where she proceeded to eat her catch. When she finished her whole meal she descended from the tree. So from beginning to end, that sighting was about as outstanding as a sighting in the bush can be. Fabulous!

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So another very full, very exciting, and awesome day at Elephant Plains ended, and right now it is time for dinner under the stars …


Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Karula’s Cub With a Kill …

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Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Karula’s Cub With a Kill

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

Just think about it! The African bush, and your only thought for the next days is which leopard will I see? Where are the lions? … i.e., for the next days we can concentrate on the important things in life …

So here we are, at Elephant Plains and back from our first very successful game drive. It all started when everyone arrived in time for introductions to our fellow TuskPhoto guests, then a delicious meal, and after a quick briefing we were more than ready to board the safari vehicles and get get going.

During our meal we heard from the rangers about a leopard towards the eastern end of the reserve with an impala kill. So naturally that was our first destination. When we arrived, the leopard, a male, was lying on the ground in some long grass. We could see him but at that stage decent photography was just about impossible. It turned out to be one of Karula’s young male cubs. He is just over a year old and quite independent.

We decided to be patient and to wait it out. And that was the perfect decision. As evening approached the leopard got up, stretched and then jumped up into a large Leadwood Tree. His kill was there and he settled down to feed. We used flash to light the foreground, with the beautiful sunset colours tinged with shades of reds and oranges, and a deep blue sky behind.

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As darkness arrived we took out the spotlights. He continued eating and eventually, when he had enough, he sprawled on one of the branches. We captured some great shots of the young fellow.

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On the way back to the Lodge we found a White-faced Scops Owl and stopped for some photos before continuing our journey back to camp.

All in all it was a great way to start our first safari, and tomorrow morning we will probably return to the leopard at first light …


Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Predators Hunting and Eating …

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Hendri Reports from Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains   …

It was still quite cool from the rains and looked rather gloomy when we set out this morning – what a welcome relief from the heat! We thought that maybe the cool, damp weather would diminish the stench of the elephant carcass, so we decided to be brave and give that a try.

We arrived to find about eight to ten hyenas milling around and we used our spotlights to capture their behaviour around the still somewhat smelly, but bearable, remains. As it became lighter we used flashes – and then the vultures started to appear. There was nonstop interaction between the hyenas and vultures, as they tried hard to chase each other from the carcass. The flapping, yipping, and general intolerance of each group for the other was really comical to watch at times and each time it really looked as though all was settling down, there would be a flurry with wings flapping and hyenas running before they settled again for a few seconds and it all started again and again and again.

Then we moved to where Salayexe had her kill yesterday. We found her lying close to her kill in a sandy river-bed. There was plenty of grass around so we couldn’t get good images at first. But when she got up and went to the base of the tree to pick something up visibility and photography improved irately. It took a moment to ident what the leopard now had in her jaws. It was a leg of her kill that must have dropped while she was feeding earlier. She took this to a tree stump where she lay and gnawed on her prize, giving us an open, clear view.

The rain was becoming a bit of a nuisance by now so we headed back to the Lodge for a dry, warm break – and our delicious meals, followed by photographic and Lightroom tuition.

This afternoon the rain stopped. Our two vehicles split up, with one group paying a visit to the hyena den where the pups were playing out in the open.

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The second vehicle headed to the east, hearing that one of the female leopards, Thandi, had been spotted with a kill. When we found her she was in long grass with her kill. Although we could see her, there was no chance of decent photography. But her young male cub was more obliging and lay exposed on the side of a termite mound. He got up after a while to join his mother in the long grass. Although we waited until after dark, hoping that Thandi would take her kill up into a tree. She did not!

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On the way back to the Lodge we came across three young male lions not far from the camp. We did some good spotlight work with them.

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When they started to stalk an impala we held our breath, hoping … but the impala dashed away, and by then it was time to return to the Lodge.

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In the morning we plan to follow up on those lions first …


Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Wild Dogs Chase Impala Directly at Us …

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Brendon’s News from Elephant Plains at Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

(Images from the back of Brendon’s Camera)

The welcome rains cooled the area somewhat during the night and when we set out this morning it was overcast and drizzly, and we could smell the fresh aroma of the damp, clean bush-veld. Luckily, as we set out the rain let up.

We were very anxious to try and locate the two ‘new’ leopards that we spotted yesterday, the female Nchila that we spotted earlier in the day and Hosana, the male that we came across in the afternoon, and therefore decided to check out the eastern section of the reserve.

Along the way we saw a herd of elephants, and it didn’t seem to take long before we were in the area where we left the male leopard last night.

We stopped to photograph a Fish Eagle at one of the pans, when suddenly an impala hurtled towards us as fast as it could run. On its heels was a Wild Dog and within seconds two more dogs arrived. Somehow, no-one how it happened, but the impala escaped. The perplexed dogs hung around the pan for quite some time, maybe hoping for their prey to reappear. We were so lucky to be at the right place at the most perfect time – and our cameras were up and ready. All we had to do was to re-aim and shoot. Everyone is delighted with the resulting images, and quite awed by the experience.

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As the dogs moved off and we prepared to depart, we looked up and right there in front of us we saw the young male leopard that we had seen yesterday. Karula’s young cub, Hosana, was at the same pan! He was stalking some Egyptian Geese – typical behaviour for a leopard as young as he is. We collected some super shots before he went to lie down in some thick bush.

We left the leopard to continue our game drive. Some vultures looked great as they sat in tress, bathed in lovely, warm, golden morning light, and we simply had to stop to photograph that scene.

Then we heard that Thandi and her young male cub had been spotted so we hurried to them. We caught them and spent some quality time with the two before they disappeared into an inaccessible area. So we let them be and returned to the Lodge.

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This afternoon the rain pelted down again. We all became soaked and quite chilled but it was worth it because we found Salayexe with a kill in a dense, concealed tree. It was a great place for her to hide her kill from potential thieves, but it was not the optimal place for photography. However, just seeing the leopard is always a treat.

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When we started to feel too wet and chilly we decided that after four leopards in one day we could declare the day a success, return to the Lodge and rather wait to see what tomorrow brings …



Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Two New Leopards …

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Hendri Reports from Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains …

(Images from the back of Brendon’s Camera)

Our first morning game drive with the new group of TuskPhoto Safari guests started as always before dawn. We split up, with one vehicle heading straight to the lions that we saw yesterday at the elephant carcass. The lions had moved away and were nowhere in sight, but about twenty hyenas milled around, feeding and arguing. Our hardy photographers hung around until the stench became so overpowering that they could not remain a moment longer, and they departed.

The second vehicle went directly to the Ingrid Dam Leopard with her duiker kill in the tree –

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– and found her fast asleep in the tree. The moon was bright in the background, creating a wonderful picture with the inky darkness still all around. Then, when the sun rose, and the golden morning light shone on the leopard, everyone’s collection of leopard images increased with some superb additions.

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We found and then followed some fresh female leopard tracks. These led us to Nchila, a young leopard that we have not seen before. This actually brought our tally of different leopard sightings to six! Simply wonderful!

This afternoon we traveled to the east to see if we could find the lioness with the cubs that we saw the other day. We found the mother, but there was no sign of her cubs. The lioness was drinking at a waterhole, after which she went to lie down in a lovely wide open area, giving us plenty of time to compose our images with care. Then she got up and went for a stroll with us in tow, photographing her as she went along.

A call came through about a young male leopard that had been found back toward the west, so we went there immediately. His name is Hosana, and we was in a dry riverbed. We positioned our vehicles for optimal views and the best photographic angles, and this paid off extremely well, especially when Hosana got up to walk directly past us. He went for a few further meters and posed on the river bank while we positioned ourselves in the riverbed to capture eye-level images of the handsome young cat. Then he recrossed the riverbed to lie on a termite mound in a perfect position for us to use our spotlights to get excellent backlit, side-lit and full face portrait shots.

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After this very successful day we started back to the Lodge, and noticed plenty of lightning criss-crossing the sky – promising rain in the morning …


Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Monkey Business with Salayexe …

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Brendon’s News from Elephant Plains at Sabi Sand Game Reserve

(Images from the back of Brendon’s Camera)

Being the final game drive for the first safari this morning, everyone was very keen to return to the Ingrid Dam leopard with her duiker kill in the tree from yesterday, hoping that both mom and cub would be discovered in the vicinity of the kill.

We spent much of the morning with the leopard, first having to use spotlights, then flash as the sun started to brighten the day. She was way up in the tree, with a lovely sky that gradually changed from grey to pinky orange and finally to a deep cerulean blue. A few white clouds completed the picture.

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We carried on with our drive and bumped into a couple of elephants here and there. That was really great. Then a herd of zebra caught our attention and because they were at eye level, and looked quite wonderful in that idyllic setting, we stopped with them for quite a while.

Then we bumped into Salayexe. She was out hunting, so we followed discreetly behind her as she closed in on some impala. She had a few attempts before the morning became too hot, and she gave up to retreat to a cool, shady spot to settle down for the heat of the day.

By now it was time to return to the Lodge, and we reluctantly turned in that direction. The trip was such a success that no one wanted to leave …

When the second safari group arrived and listened to the anecdotes from the previous days, they were more than ready to get started.

After food and a briefing we set out to search for Salayexe. We found fresh tracks soon after leaving the Lodge and started to follow these. Where could she be?

The next moment we spotted her running along the bank of a dry river-bed. Grey streaks turned out to be monkeys! She was chasing monkeys – and they were not making life easy for her. Well, actually, she wasn’t making life easy for them either. The monkeys were going berserk as Salayexe chased them. She pursued one right to the top of a tree, and them jumped – but she missed! The action! noise! adrenaline levels! heart rates! cameras clicking furiously! It was an extremely tense, exciting few minutes.

Whew! Suddenly it was all over, and Salayexe carried on moving around. She stopped for a drink at a water-hole,

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– walked through the grass, then up the road and across some nice open areas. Finally we lost her as she continued to search for food and disappeared into some dense vegetation.

We moved on to the Ingrid Dam leopard. The kill was still in the tree, while a bunch of hyenas milled around the base of the tree, looking up expectantly, hoping that scraps or the whole carcass would fall while the leopard ignored them and carried on feeding. Eventually she moved a short distance from the kill to lie down on a branch.

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Again we started with a lovely late afternoon sky and when evening started our flashes came out to be followed by spotlights when it was completely dark.

We quickly went to check on the elephant carcass. There we found three young male lions. They had been feeding for some time and were fat and full and lying in an open area.

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After photographing the lions it was time to head back to the Lodge. After such a great start to the second safari we need to decide which of our sightings to follow up on in the morning …



Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Turmoil and Smells at the Elephant Carcass …

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Hendri Reports from Elephant Plains at Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

(Images from Hendri and from back of Brendon’s Camera)

When we left in the early darkness this morning it was quite surprisingly hot and humid. We bravely headed straight to the elephant carcass from yesterday, hoping that the stench would not be too awful. We arrived to find about seven hyenas eating, but the overpowering smell was so gross that we didn’t linger.

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Instead we went in search of Thandi and her cub. We found the two leopards walking down the road, not far from where we left them at their kill yesterday. We all captured some great images of the two as they strolled, quite unfazed by our vehicle.

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We thought it may be worth our while to try the elephant carcass again. I mean, how bad could it be – and just for a few minutes, we decided. When we arrived, one of the hyenas was carrying the tail of the elephant, very pleased with his prize as he looked for a secluded spot to hide it from his mates.

A large number of White-backed Vultures just about covered the carcass, surrounded it while those with less luck looked on, hoping for a chance to get in there. There was movement everywhere!

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To add to the picture of turmoil, there was constant interaction between the hyenas and the vultures, with hyenas sending flocks of birds into the air, then vultures sending hyenas scurrying away. Each lot returned again and again to continue feeding and squabbling!

This afternoon we decided to try and find Salayexe. Both our vehicles followed her tracks but without results.

Then, before sunset we spotted a leopard in a tree with a kill. It turned out to be the Ingrid’s Dam leopard – a young female, and she had a duiker kill. We positioned our vehicles to photograph the leopard with the vibrant colours of the setting sun behind her.

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That was very successful, and when she came down from the tree we quickly drove to the nearby water-hole, hoping that she was heading that way for a drink. Yes! That is precisely what she did and again our photos were quite remarkable. And when she went to lie down we used the spotlights for front-, side-, and back-lit shots.

Finally the leopard got up, had another drink with lovely reflections in the water, and disappeared into the bush.

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We returned to the tree with the kill, hoping that she was headed that way, but no! This time we were unlucky and although we waited until it was time to return to the Lodge, she did not reappear.


But in the morning we will probably start with a quick check to find her because her kill is still up in that tree …



Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Elephant Gored to Death …

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Brendon’s News from Elephant Plains at Sabi Sand Game Reserve

(Images from the back of Brendon’s Camera)

As usual we were out of the Lodge before the sun had time to rise. We had heard last night that a young dead elephant had been spotted, so we headed directly there this morning. A fight between two elephant bulls resulted in the younger one’s death. We could see a large tusk hole in one side and another that pierced the neck. The two had been seen fighting during the past week, and sadly, this was the final outcome.

Six or seven hyenas were feeding greedily and noisily, and because they had opened the entrails the area was rather smelly. Although it was a tough scene and very sad to witness, and made extra gory by the hyenas, we captured some really interesting shots.

We carried on and found another couple of hyenas at a water-hole. We stopped to enjoy coffee and snacks at that spot before we ventured on again. A couple of rhino were a little skittish but we managed some very decent images of the pair.

This afternoon we had an amazing drive.

We traveled towards the east and found one of the Styx lionesses with four little cubs, about six to eight weeks old. They little ones were cute, very playful, and quite relaxed with our presence.

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Because only one vehicle is allowed at a time with such small cubs, we filled our cameras and then made way to give others a chance, –

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– but not far away we found another two Styx Lionesses accompanied by one of the big Birmingham Males. They were resting at the time, but we captured some great portraits each time they lifted a head.

A call came in about Thandi, a mother leopard, who had been spotted with her cub. She was in a fallen tree, with a cloudy, colourful orange and purple sky behind her.

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This was a wonderful setting, and we started with some flash work until it was dark enough for the spotlights. The cub remained under the tree feeding on a small kudu kill. It was too large to hoist into the tree – and we couldn’t help but be very impressed that Thandi had managed such a large kill!

We headed back to the Lodge, and just before we arrived we spied a little Barred Owl sitting on a dead tree stump.

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All in all, another fantastic day, while tomorrow we are spoiled for choice for our first drive. Do we return to the leopards, the lions, or the dead elephant? Mmmm – decisions in the bush! …