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Sabi Sand Photo Safari

Sabi Sand Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Leopards on the Hunt …

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Hendri Reports from Elephant Plains at Sabi Sand Game Reserve

(Unlabeled Images from Back of Brendon’s Camera)

Because we were so keen to return to either or both of the leopards that we saw yesterday, we were on our vehicles and ready to set out before the first rays of the day pierced the morning sky. About half an hour before sunrise.

We found three adult hyenas with a small pup at a waterhole and spent some time photographing them in the predawn stillness. The reflections in the mirror-like water and the interactions between the little pup and one of the adults gave us plenty of scope for some stunning shots.

Then we received a call that Salayexe was around and we immediately hurried straight to her. She was stalking impala, and we followed her. But each serious attempt was foiled when the impala caught a whiff and bolted. Again and again.

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We remained with Salayexe for a while, but then decided to try our luck and see if we could find that lovely young leopard – Nsele’s daughter – again. Luck was running our way and we found her quite easily resting on a termite mound with a shady, dark background. The composition and play of light and dark was perfect for excellent photographic outcomes.

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That was it for the morning, and after food, photography tutorials and a rest back at the Lodge, we were ready to set out again this afternoon.

We returned to the dam where we found the young leopard lying on the dam wall. We waited for a while and our patience was rewarded when she came down to the water to drink. Once again the reflections in the water were just lovely.

When Nsele’s daughter left the dam we followed her. She strolled along and suddenly noticed something. It was a Banded Mongoose, and she was after it in a flash. No luck! She continued her journey to a riverbed where she climbed a tree. She was after some squirrels in the tree, but again she failed. But the photography was great, especially as she came down from the tree. Then a hyena arrived, and she quickly slunk away into some tall grass.

We had been told that lions with a kill had been spotted a few days ago, not far from where we now found ourselves and we decided to go and check them out. There were four adult lionesses and eight one-year old cubs and they were very close to the dam.

As it was after sunset we started with flash photography. One of the cubs posed really nicely for us on a termite mound. As the inky darkness surrounded us we started to use our spotlights, giving us front-,

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and back-lit shots …9 EP Lions Brendon 2017 4… which turned out really well.

On the way back to the Lodge one of our vehicles spotted a Scops Owl and a Chameleon in a tree. A perfect way to end a perfect day!

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In the morning we would like to see if either of the leopards from today continues their hunting attempts …



Sabi Sand Safari Photo Safari at Elephant Plains: Young Leopard Cub and then Our Favorite – Salayexe …

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Brendon Reports from Sabi Sand Photo Safari: A Young Leopard Cub and then Our Favorite – Salayexe …


Can you imagine how wonderful it is to be back here at the lush Sabi Sand Reserve with all the amazing animals that abound here.

Having arrived at around noon in time for a delicious lunch, followed by a briefing and getting to know you session we were more than ready to depart for our first game drive. Everyone was really hoping to see a leopard …

As we left the Lodge our very first sighting, in fact, very soon after leaving the Lodge – one of our two vehicles found Nsele’s young 1 year-old leopard cub. She was lying on a dam wall and although she is often quite skittish and not too relaxed around vehicles, she appeared far more at ease today and allowed some lovely images to be captured.

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The second vehicle found fresh leopard tracks and followed these directly to Salayexe. The friendly leopard was lying in the dry Manyalete riverbed.

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At this stage both vehicles joined up and proceeded to spend the entire afternoon as Salayexe lay around, then moved around a bit – and then spotted some impala, which she immediately started to stalk. It was fascinating to watch as she gradually crept closer to the unsuspecting animals. These were large impala rams, more interested in rutting and chasing each other around and not showing any interest in their surroundings at all.

But they get catch a whiff of the nearing leopard and within seconds they scattered, so we didn’t get to watch a chase or actual capture, but the rest was fascinating and we found ourselves scarcely breathing at times as Salayexe seemed to get impossibly close to the buck.

After this she went to lie down in the riverbed again. We waited for dark, when we knew that Salayexe would be on the move again. As the sun set we used our flashes for photography and when it became completely dark we took out the spotlights for some of those magical night-time shots. She obliged us by walking up the road and then stopped for a drink. So our cameras filled very quickly.

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Now we are back at the Lodge, very delighted to have seen the leopards on our very first outing, and hoping to follow up on them again before first light in the morning …


Sabi Sand Elephant Plains Safari: Big Cats

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Brendon Reports from Elephant Plains at Sabi Sand Game Reserve

(Images from the back of Dawie Jacobs’ Camera)

Tiyane has grown up into a smart, savvy young leopard. She is beautiful, and very relaxed around vehicles and cameras as she goes about her daily business …

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The ferocious Birmingham Male lions rule the area – and have attained their dominant status by bullying any other lions venturing onto what they have claimed as their territory.

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After these amazing days at Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sand Reserve, it is easy to see why people return again – and again …

Sabi Sand Elephant Plains Safari: The Big Five! …

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Brendon Reports from Elephant Plains at Sabi Sand Game Reserve

(Leopard and Lion Images from the back of Brendon’s Camera)

It was our last full day here for this safari, and we left as early as possible to take advantage of every moment.

We hoped to catch up with Tiyane, the beautiful young leopard. We scored around the area where we saw her yesterday, but all we found were her tracks. That was frustrating, but only for a few seconds, as we received a call saying that she had been spotted. Where? What? She was miles from where we were trying to track her. She must have walked very far during the night.

It was wonderful to catch up with her again, and Tiyane, as always, was a fabulous photographic subject. The morning light was perfect again, and we spent the morning with her. We left her when she started to hunt some impala.

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We also encountered three of the Birmingham Male lions. We captured some great images of them in the excellent lighting conditions. They walked around, providing us with some great photo opportunities.

We left them when it was time to return to the Lodge for brunch and then photographic and Lightroom classes.

This afternoon we returned to where we left the Birmingham Males this morning. However, they had moved into thick bush, and were only just visible through the dense foliage even though we were really close to them.

We moved on and photographed elephants, buffalo, and two rhinos. This completes our Big Five for today.

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We returned to Tiyane, but she had disappeared.

So once again we meandered back to the lions, knowing that they would probably be up and about as the sun set. Out came our spotlights and we practised a variety of lighting techniques as they emerged from their siesta spots.

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They started to patrol their territory, reaffirming that they are the dominant males in the area, and we followed to watch their diligent patrol.

All in all, we had a really full day, and we look forward to our final morning drive tomorrow …


Sabi Sand Elephant Plains Safari: Tiyane Hunts Again …

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Sabi Sand Elephant Plains Safari: Tiyane Hunts Again …

Ben Reports from Elephant Plains at Sabi Sand Game Reserve …

(Images from the back of Brendon’s Camera)

We left the Lodge early again after coffee and rusks, and set out in search of one of the leopards we have seen in the past days. The morning was fairly quite so – maybe because it was overcast as very dull again, so we concentrated on general game until we received a call about a leopard.

We arrived to find a female leopard in a tree, and quickly identified Tiyane. She soon came down from the tree and we photographed her against the grey background, and used flash to highlight the beautiful young cat.

Then she started stalking something in the long grass. We couldn’t see what it was because the grass is more than a meter tall, but we could follow her movements as we glimpsed the top of her head and back. Her prey eventually turned out to be a Common or Kurrichane Buttonquail when the bird flew up out of the grass when she leaped at it.

Tiyane then retired to a termite mound where she rested for a while before traversing some more tall grass to climb a tree. And there she settled down on a comfortable branch to sleep.

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We departed and next found a pride of lions.

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Three lionesses were watching the antics of their six or seven month old cubs. They were moving along, occasionally through grass, but then the stopped and flopped around for a while. One of the lionesses sat up and gazed intently at something that we could not see. We looked and looked and realised that a small herd of kudu was very close by when we heard them barking at the lions.

Then action! One of the lionesses suddenly jumped up and sprinted after the the kudu, but they managed to get away. The lionesses settled down again. They engaged in some mutual grooming before they looked as though they were going to sleep for the middle of the day.

This afternoon we decided to find Tiyane again, and although we found her tracks, she remained elusive.

But we did encounter a White Rhino and stopped to take photos in the late afternoon light before deciding to return to the lions from the morning.

The lions were still there, but they were still fast asleep. As darkness arrived, they started to wake up, and we were able to get some pretty good shots with the help of our spotlights. The mutual grooming resumed, with plenty of head rubbing. Then they scratched trees, and exhibited typical lion behaviour after waking from the afternoon slumber.

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The photos of the lions licking one another, grooming, head rubbing and so on turned out very well with the central area of the image lit up and surrounded by darkness.

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Now we are back at the Lodge and ready for our dinner under the stars. Tomorrow we may like to start with a visit to the lions again …



Sabi Sand Elephant Plains Safari: Stuck in the Bush! …

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Sabi Sand Elephant Plains Safari: Stuck in the Bush! …

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

(Image from the back of Brendon’s Camera)

The dawn was just deciding to break when we headed out, keenly looking out for Salayexe. We left the leopard last night in the dark as she started to hunt a herd of impala – and what a fabulous time we had. The morning was cool and overcast with very subdued lighting.

We found Tiyane (Salayexe’s daughter) as we scratched around to see what we could see. Tiyane was on the move and we followed her for the full duration of our morning safari. She went through grassy plains, climbed termite mounds for a quick groom and look around, before she moved on again, choosing any and every opportunity to climb a log or fallen branch as a vantage point for a good look around. She was on the move the whole time and at times we had quite a job keeping up with her … but we doggedly managed to catch up each time she went through particularly thick bush, or took a shortcut through a song a or riverbed that we had to drive around.

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Each time the young leopard stopped we took dozens of photographs, and when she was one the move we snapped away as well as we could. We had to use flash because of the dull light, but luckily Tiyane is very chilled, and hardly gave us a passing glance.

Back at the Lodge we enjoyed brunch followed by a tutorial on flash photography in the bush.

Our afternoon game drive was fairly quiet. We drove to the Eastern Section of the reserve in search of lions that had been reported there, but one of our vehicles got stuck in some very soft sand in a riverbed as we started our search for the big cats. It took ages to get the vehicle out, and finally a rescue tractor from a neighbouring Lodge was summoned to assist.

As we were pulled free from the sandy riverbed we heard of a nearby lion, and managed to get over and photograph him as he walked in the darkness down a roadway. Our spotlights meant that we were able to get some really cool shots. When he crossed the boundary to a different reserve we turned towards our Lodge, late, but satisfied that we had seen at least one of the lions we had wanted to photograph this afternoon.

After that adventure in the bush, we are extra keen to get out in the morning to maybe see if the lions will be around …



Sabi Sand Elephant Plains Safari: Salayexe Hunts Again …

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

More info about this safari may be found here.

(Images from the back of Brendon’s Camera)

Naturally, after yesterday, we were anxious to return to Salayexe, the female leopard with her young kudu kill, and we started in that direction as soon as we were able to leave the Lodge this morning.

On the way to find her, who should come strolling down the road towards us, but Salayexe herself. We stopped to photograph and to follow her, and were soon interrupted by some hyenas. They chased her up a small fallen down tree and we were able to take advantage of the great photographic opportunities that this gave us. The light was superb and when she sprawled out on a branch some great images were captured by everyone.

Salayexe came down from the tree when the sun started to warm the bushveld, and she flopped down in some long, cool grass. She was no longer clearly visible and possibly would not stir for some time so we pushed off.

As we scrounged around we had some excellent bird sightings. There were plenty of colourful Little Bee-eaters around, and different eagles like a magnificent Martial Eagle.

We stopped for our morning coffee break at Big Dam, where we enjoyed watching the hippos cavorting in the Dam while we enjoyed coffee and snacks.

All too soon it was time to return to the Lodge to pack up and say farewell to our first group, and await the arrival of the next safari guests.

The new group had all assembled by lunch time, and were really thrilled to hear from the others about all the amazing sightings and experiences of the past days. Needless to say, everyone was really eager to get going, so after introductions and a quick briefing we assembled at the vehicles, ready to go.

We started with a visit to Salayexe, and found her exactly where we had left her in the morning in the long grass. We waited to see if she would wake up and maybe climb into a nearby tree and settle on a branch again.

While we waited a Woodlands Kingfisher landed directly above us. It had a scorpion in its beak, and we had plenty of time to compose and capture some fabulous shots. Then the kingfisher started to call, and we heard a number of chicks calling in nearby tree (the same tree next to Salayexe), where we spotted a small hole. Next the kingfisher flew to the hole and started to feed the scorpion to the noisy little chicks. While we waited for the leopard to wake up, the bird returned two or three times, each time with food to feed the little ones. It was wonderful to watch.

Eventually Salayexe did exactly what we wanted! She woke up, stretched a bit and then climbed the tree to settle on the most ideal of the exposed branches.

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She behaved perfectly for us! She yawned a bit, settled down, looked around, and finally as darkness started to overtake the countryside our spotlights came out to photograph her as she came down from her perch and enjoyed a drink before she started stalking and hunting a herd of impala.

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And that is exactly where we plan to start in the morning – to see if she hunted successfully or will hunt again in the early morning …