(Photos: From Back of Dawie’s Camera)
Our early morning drive started with a search for whichever predator was causing a commotion close to the Lodge. During our early morning coffee gathering before we started our game drive we could hear bushbuck alarm calling and panicking. Something was happening.
We started to circle around and very quickly found tracks that led us directly to two lions. In fact they were resting next to one of the rooms at the Lodge, they were that close by! A young male and a female looked at us with little interest, and we used the early changing light to capture a variety of shots. We started with spotlights, and spent quite a while with them. There was no grass and no bush to interfere with our images.
When we left the lions we searched for signs of a leopard, and as we drove along we passed some elephants. We stopped for a few minutes before continuing on our way. Then we saw fresh leopard tracks. We found a very busy female leopard that had her sights focused unwaveringly on a Duiker. She stalked it through the veld. We followed with some difficulty as she moved through some thick bush. Besides, we did not want to approach too close and rather kept our distance so that we did not interfere with a possible successful outcome. Eventually we did lose her as she went into a riverbed, but by then we had a number of exciting photographs.
As we started to move away, a call came through to inform us about another female leopard – this one with a cub. And what a sighting that was. When we arrived the two cats were moving through a thicket, and the positioning was perfect. The mother scent-marked as they made their way along, and eventually she went to lie down next to a riverbed. Before the cub could catch up with mom two hyenas arrived, startled the cub, and chased it up into a tree. Luckily the cub could got way out of the reach of the hyenas, and it sat up there, nervously looking down at the two threatening interlopers.
After a rest at the Lodge, we returned to the leopard and her cub, but this time we could not find them or even a track or two.
Then we heard that one of the male leopards we had seen before was walking around. We made our way to that location, and again stopped briefly to photograph a large herd of elephants.
As we arrived close to the male leopard another call came through. A female leopard was spotted close to the male. We rushed, but just missed her as she disappeared. We followed the male as he sniffed the bushes, picked up the scent of the female and made his way towards her. As we pulled ahead of him a few times, we collected some very nice closeups and walk-by images. He was so intent on keeping up with the female that he hardly glanced at us.
When we left the leopard we tried to find the lions again. They had also disappeared somewhere into the night, but we did stop for a White-faced Owl that was perched in an excellent position for us to fill our cameras.
Finally we stopped to photograph elephants drinking in the moonlight. It was a beautiful way to end a stunning day, and in the morning we certainly have plenty to look forward to …