(Photos: From Back of Dawie’s Camera)
After yesterday’s excitement and drama in the bush, it is not surprising that we expected that to be followed by a quiet day. But no! Our final full day at Elephant Plains turned out to be very exciting, very rewarding.
Our first search was for the male leopard we have seen during the past days. We looped around while our second vehicle checked on the female leopard and her cub.
We looped past the hyena den to see what they were up to, and found many of the clan members out in the open, relaxing in the pre-dawn stillness. Two young pups cavorted around, tumbled, chased, and played with anything that moved.
As we circled around in our leopard search we stopped for a herd of elephants and shortly after giraffe looked quite impressive against the almost lightening sky. Plenty of Plains game could be seen at every turn.
Then we received a call about a different male leopard, and we quickly went to join our other vehicle at that sighting. We practised different types of photography techniques, including panning shots with flash. These can look very impactful when the technique is mastered. As the leopard patrolled and searched for food, we were able to photograph his progress, and again we managed a number of walk-bys whenever we managed to pull ahead of him.
The male leopard climbed a number of logs and mounds to get a look around, and these poses gave us even more superb shots.
We moved on to give another vehicle a chance to view the magnificent cat, and followed up on a report of lions. A young male with a lioness were awake, and spent ages showing one another plenty of affection, with head-rubbing, and body contact. The interaction was lovely to watch, and when they settled down to sleep for the day we drove back to the male leopard.
We followed the male leopard and suddenly there was another leopard on the scene. He had found a female with her cub (not the fighting female we saw on the previous day). He called and called as soon as he spotted her, and showed plenty of affection when he met up with her. We were surprised at the interaction as we had expected some aggression. After greeting the female he settled on a termite mound for a rest and went to sleep.
As the female leopard wandered away we followed her as she made her way along. She spotted a Scrub Hare, and crawled very patiently low to the ground, creeping closer and closer. Then she pounced and while she was in mid-air the Hare saw her and was gone in a flash. She missed!
Our afternoon drive started with a search for the male leopard that we had left sleeping on a termite mound. There was no sign of him, but as we circled the area there were also no tracks that would indicate that he had left the area. He was still somewhere there. But as he clearly did not want to be seen we turned our attention to a search for the female with her cub.
We arrived at the area where we suspected they would be and found the cub on a mound, waiting for her mother.
The sun was quite low, and the moody clouds formed a lovely backdrop. Our other vehicle then spotted the mother – and she had a kill. She was on a termite mound, and it appeared that a hyena then slunk away with the kill. Suddenly a commotion erupted very close by, and although nothing could be seen, it sounded like a lion brawling with a hyena. Following the deep growls and the typical hyena yips showed not a lion, but a huge leopard vs hyena confrontation. The male leopard dashed to the kill, stole it from the hyena and hoisted it high into a Marula tree. He settled to eat it – our shots then show the male feeding on the impala up in the tree with the disconsolate female sitting forlornly at the base.
What a fabulous way it was to end our final full day at Elephant Plains … hopefully our morning drive will be as rewarding …