Mating Leopards, a Lion Kill in Front of Us – and more …

Brendon’s News from Elephant Plains on the Sabi Sand Photo safari:
(Video and Lion pic thanks to Morne Fouche – Guide at Elephant Plains)

Our game drive started with a check in the southern area that we haven’t visited much. We found new tracks of a female leopard that we followed for a while – until we spotted her strolling through the bush. She was positioned beautifully for very clear photography and as she was very relaxed and totally ignored us, we were able to get some outstanding photographs. The morning golden light was superb and we pulled ahead of her many times for walk-bys.

We left her when she disappeared and we could no longer follow her and also because we heard that another guide had found leopard tracks and we thought we would try our luck there. We scratched around, but had no luck with finding that leopard.

However, the elephants in the area kept us really busy – particularly two males close to the road, with lovely light on them and surrounded by lush vegetation. They looked outstanding in that setting.

We started to head back to the Lodge slowly, and bumped into hyenas heading back to their den. There are quite a number of hyenas in the area at the moment and we have managed to spend some quality, successful photographic time with them.

Then we saw a rhino not too far from the Lodge.

We heard that the group who went on a bush walk between our two game drives heard sounds of leopards mating not far from the Lodge. So that was clearly where we needed to start our drive.

We didn’t see any tracks although we searched thoroughly, and then we thought that maybe we should turn off the engine and sit quietly to see if we could pick up anything. We sat there … shhhh! Silence! Only the usual sounds of the bush surrounded us. And then we heard it – the unmistakable sounds of leopards mating. More than that, they were only about twenty meters from us! Wow indeed!

We found a female we don’t often see in the area. She was very relaxed and didn’t even bother to glance at our vehicle. Her partner was a male that we have never seen at Elephant Plains, new to the area, and we have no idea where he came from. He was a little jittery when he saw us, and moved away. The female followed him, with us not too far behind. Travelling through the bush with the two wasn’t easy, but it was well worth every moment as they mated again and again.

After that exciting encounter we moved and stopped to photograph more elephants, giraffe and zebra.

Then by chance we found another young leopard. She was lying quietly in the grass next to the road – and next to her was an impala kill that she had caught moments before. She was still catching her breath after the hunt, and hadn’t really started to feed yet. We captured a number of images and then moved on to make way for another vehicle to see her.

We found a pride of lions just before sunset and spent the remainder of the evening with them, until well after dark. They walked around quite a bit, giving us plenty to photograph – and then they started to stalk a small herd of impala. Their efforts were futile that time, but we waited until they reformed and started back to where they had started.

The second hunt started abruptly as they were regrouping on their way back, and when they spotted a large male warthog. It was late in the evening and the warthog should have been back in his hole at least an hour before. The unfamiliar situation unsettled the warthog and he panicked. The sight of the lions threw him into a total frenzy and he tried to make a very belated dash for the safety of his hole. Too late! He should not have ventured out so long after sunset in the total darkness.

It was an amazing sight as it all unfolded so suddenly in front of us – and while our pulses were still racing after the impala chase.

Then came the sight and sounds of the lions all trying to fight for any bit they could get from a small meal. One warthog does not go far with twelve hungry lions to feed, and each big cat was intent on grabbing any morsel from the fast disappearing carcass. Fur, spit, snarls, growls, dust, – what a scene! Massive arguments broke our regularly! Our cameras were ultra busy.

So after yet another absolutely amazing day, we are back at the Lodge, almost unable to believe that so much can happen in one day and knowing that even if we do not see another animal at all, this trip has been beyond any expectations. So – what can tomorrow bring …?