Elephant Plains Safari: Servals, Civet, Lions – and Leopard!
News from Villiers Steyn:
We woke up to a beautiful morning left the Lodge with a magnificent sky above and a thick bank of clouds gathering on the eastern horison, with the sun creating a kaleidoscope of stunning colours … a truly wonderful show.
Within moments we reached the airstrip where 10 giraffe were gebinning to wake up … half of them were still lying down and gazed at us sleepily. The girsffe were accompanied by an equal number of zebras – also waking up. We spent some time just sharing their space in the peace and beauty of the spectacular setting and atmosphere. We positioned ourselves to capture some silhouettes against that breathtaking sky.
We took a slow drive to check on Salayexe or her cub. Tracks are easy to spot now because of the wet weather, but we had no luck there.
Then we heard that three of the Birmingham male lions had been spotted towards the east. We found the three young males still fast asleep, partially obscured by dense foliage. We waited until two of them woke up and started to groom themselves. We manged some good images of them yawning and licking their paws. One was limping quite badly – and the other had blood on his stomach from a wound there, so the two must have been in some sort of scuffle during the night.
We headed west, and it appears that every imaginable bird is around after the rains. There were Wahlberg’s Eagles, Fish Eagles, Bateleurs, Secretary Birds, and among the uncountable numbers of smaller birds was almost everything imaginable, including Bee-eaters, Kingfishers, Drongos, Wood Hoopoes … everywhere we drove we saw and heard birds! The bush is alive with sound, and to add to the symphony, different frogs could be heard calling from the numerous ponds that are dotted everywhere. We could see the foam nests on the ponds – a wonderful sight now that the rains are here.
When we went out again this afternoon our first stop was for a very busy little Dung Beetle.We got out and lay in the dirt to photograph the little fellow as he rolled his ball of dung from eye level with backlighting – which came out really well.
We decided to head to the hyena den, but on the way there we simply had to stop when we encountered a herd of around 400 buffalo. Just as we started to photograph the buffalo we received a massive surprise. Remember, it was still bright daylight, so the last animal that we expected to pitch up was … a leopard! This was Kwatile’s cub, Tsakane, about 2 years old now!
She appeared from the middle of the buffalo herd and walked through them without glancing left or right, and made her way to the nearby riverbed. We raced around to get images of her walking towards us with beautiful golden rim lighting on the edge of the river and in an open area – just ideal for photos!
She walked towards some impala that spotted her, and because she wasn’t hunting some even moved closer to her! She looped around and returned to where we were for a long drink in one of the natural pools.
She then strolled upstream followed by a Spotted Hyena (and us) until she disappeared over some rocks into dense bush, leaving us with a fantastic collection of to-dream-of images.
We finally arrived at the hyena den to find some adults lying around and a 3 week old very curious pup that gave us some lovely photo opps again.
After sundowners we headed back towards camp and noticed that there are thousands of Flying Ants emerging from the tremite mounds. Luckily for us we found two Civets catching these ants on one mound and a Genet on a nearby mound. As if that wasn’t enough, we then saw a White-tailed Mongoose on yet another!
So after a really special day, we are back at the Lodge, exhausted and thriled, and not even wondering about tomorrow …