Hunting Leopards Keep us Engrossed …

Dawie Shares from Elephant Plains on the Tusk Sabi Sand Photo Safari:

Another fabulous day started when we headed out to find the mother leopard with her cub again. We waited for a while before searching in earnest so as not to use lights with a young cub. We found their tracks but we gave up after a while.

We concentrated on elephants and other Plains animals for a while until we received a notification about another leopard that we have not seen yet on this trip. The trackers who found her lost sight of her shortly before we arrived. We picked up at the point where they last saw her hunting a scrub Hare.

We found the female leopard moving along the road and followed her. She walked past us a few times. When she spotted another scrub Hare she went into hunting mode, and expecting some action we positioned ourselves where we could see both huntress and prey, but would not interfered with the hunt. We waited, but it was a wide open area, and the Hare spotted the predator. The cat gave up and then moved along a drainage line to settle on an eroded area. Although some vegetation obscured our view to an extent, we were able to turn this to our advantage and used the leaves and shrubs to create lovely artistic effects in our images.

This afternoon the first animal that we encountered when we left the Lodge was a buffalo. We grabbed some record shots but didn’t linger with him because he was in long grass and showed no inclination to move.

Once again we photographed many elephants as we looped around and around, trying to locate Wild Dogs that we believed to be in the vicinity.

We heard that the mother leopard had been spotted again, and when we caught up with her she was alone. We checked around in vain for the cub. The leopard staked a bushbuck, and we managed some fabulous photos when she took a break to lie next to a waterhole. She remained very alert, eyes darting in all directions, and ears pricked and responsive to the slightest sound. She checked out some impala, but when a hyena arrived on the scene, and she gave up and moved away.

We tried to relocate the leopard and when we spotted her in thick bush again, we parked and waited for her to emerge. We spent a few minutes sharing hilarious anecdotes and jokes, and our laughter rang out – a very different and unaccustomed sound in the Wild African bush!

Eventually the leopard spotted another bushbuck walking in the riverbed and she started to stalk it. We kept our distance but the cat moved into the riverbed and the bushbuck immediately noticed her presence and fled.

When we left her we went in search of the lions we had seen before. We stopped to photograph hyenas again, but continued until we reached a spot where we knew that the lions were. And to our surprise we found the cub there, very close to the lions. Again we did not want to alert any other predators to the cub’s whereabouts especially as she was lying in an open patch in an old dry pan, and as the lions were only about 100 meters away, we knew that if we stopped they may become curious and come to investigate. We moved away hurriedly.

We waited close to the lions for them to get moving as the late afternoon light faded quickly, signalling sunset. The lions did as we expected (and hoped!) – they got up and went straight to a waterhole for a drink. We were hoping to get some photos of the lions drinking and our spotlights enabled us to do exactly that.

So after a very busy and successful day we made our way back to the Lodge. We looped around the Lodge before going in, and were lucky enough to find a little Scops Owl sitting in a hole in a tree. From its hiding place it called repeatedly and stuck its head out from time to time. That put the final exclamation mark on our fabulous day – in the morning we will be content with whatever we encounter in this wonderful reserve …