Elephant Plains Safari: Big 5 and a Comic Interlude with Salayexe and Cub

Villiers Reports from Elephant Plains: Big 5 and a Comic Interlude with Salayexe and Cub

We thought it would be a great idea to complete our Big Five Sightings, having already seen Lions, Leopards and Elephants. So that was our aim as we started our morning.

As we followed any possible tracks we also concentrated on the general game around, stopping frequently for herds of Impala, Zebras, large numbers of Wildebeest, and a very handsome Bull Giraffe that posed elegantly for us.

Then we found a breeding pair of White-backed Vultures. The nest was clearly visible, and one of the pair was in a dead tree close to the road. This needed a decent stop to collect our images.

We weren’t particularly searching for them when we found Salayexe and cub. Salayexe had killed a Cane Rat and the cub was pulling out the fur and trying to eat it. The light wasn’t great so we moved on ..

6 Elephant Plains, Watch Salayexe.jpg

We found rhino – but because of the circumstances, the number and location and even the sequence of the sighting will not be recorded. But I can report that we had the sighting for our Big Five tally! And I can tell you that their attendant Oxpeckers were very busy on and around the rhino as they collected ticks and other parasites.

Now the hunt was on in earnest for dagga boys (buffalo). Actually it didn’t feel that it took too long with our constant stops for other game, when we came across three really old dagga boys. They also had Oxpeckers and Drongos clearing up the parasites. In fact the one old guy’s ears were a bit bloody from some enthusiastic tick grabbing, and when there is a small wound, the Oxpeckers add the trickle of blood to their diets.

6 Elephant Plains, Buffalo Ears.jpg

And again, not searching for them, we found Salayexe and cub playing in some trees. It was quite comical to watch because the branches of the trees are quite thin and springy, and would bend as mom and cub stepped onto them, and then as mom stepped off again, the flexible branch would spring back and the cub would be sent flying. Each time it landed on all fours on the ground, and immediately started to climb again. We watched as this little bit of comic-strip humour played itself out again and again. (Not sure what the lesson was there?)

This afternoon we wanted to see even more of the general game in the lovely late light. When we headed out the weather had changed dramatically and a very strong wind was blowing. The gusts felt as though we could be blown off the vehicle at times!
We saw two miserable Side-striped Jackals sheltering together and trying to get comfortable in that howling wind.
Then we spotted a Wahlberg’s Eagle drinking from a mud puddle in the road. It obliged us with a beautiful takeoff against that glowering, dark sky, – but only after we had luckily taken quite a number of shots on the ground.
We visited Big Dam to spend some time with the twenty or so hippos there, and enjoyed listening to their grunts and watching their open mouthed displays. While we were there the wind suddenly died down and the weather cleared somewhat.
Hearing that Tingana, that very large, dominant male leopard, had been spotted we hurried to the area and arrived just in time to see him walk to quite an open patch close to us, where he started mating with Kwatile.
6 Elephant Plains Villiers Leopards Mating
They walked together down the road away from us, but we managed to get ahead of the two for photographs as they approached us. Tingana then veered off the road and started to mark his territory deeper and deeper into dense bush.
It was all a fabulous experience for most of the guests who had never witnessed mating or marking behavior before, and proved to be a simply perfect way to end their final evening game drive.


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