Villiers Reports from Elephant Plains: Salayexe Teaches her Cub …
As we left this morning the weather was sort of clear and we made the mutual decision to try and find Salayexe in the better lighting conditions. As happens from time to time in the bush, she was almost our first sighting – well, predator sighting anyway.
She was strolling along the access road to Elephant Plains with her cub, and to make the encounter extra special, they were playing as they went. Salayexe chased the little one up and down trees and termite mounds, clearly teaching her this ability, and at the same time ensuring that the cub’s muscles are strengthened.
We received a call that the Nkuhuma lions had been spotted and we immediately followed up on the lead. We found the male (from the other evening) walking down the road with two lionesses.
The three disappeared into the bush, but we decided to follow them, hoping that they would emerge on an open plain for good photography – but they did better than that – they went to lie on top of a very large termite mound in the early golden light. You know those classical images of lions on a termite mound? Well, these were good to superb images of just that!
We decided to push our luck and return to Salayexe and cub – maybe we would find them again. This time the two were at a waterhole , and when they started to walk away we were able to capture more images of the two ambling along the road, this time in better light than yesterday.
We thought it would be great to do something different this afternoon, and to ignore the spotty animals and cats in general – well, that was sort of the plan.
So we started with some birding, and luckily a Lilac Breasted Roller posed beautifully for us in a Marula Tree next to the road. The international guests were enchanted! Then we found four Yellow-billed Hornbills putting on a tremendous display on the branch of a Deadwood Tree. Soon after an African Hawk Eagle circled lazily in the sky.
That was far as the birding went because we found a young male bull elephant and he was busily stripping bark from a tree. Not only was he greeted with oohs and aaahs from everyone, but his behavior created tremendous interest and debate. We moved on and just a few meters away we started to see a number of the other members of the elephant herd, including some teeny babies. Another stop, and some more enthusiastic photographs followed.
We thought we would just drive along and see what other animals we could see, but we were interrupted again – this time by Shadow’s young one year old male cub. He doesn’t have a name yet, and although he was very relaxed with our presence at a short distance he didn’t want us any closer. He walked along until he found a termite mound with plenty of grass on it, and there he made himself comfortable. We were able to get some OK shots of him against the setting sun before we went off for sundowners.
We found a spot where we could enjoy sundowners and photograph the brilliant African sunset sky with a dramatic Knobthorn Tree in the foreground. Then elephants wandered onto the scene and we could capture images of them against that vibrant sky as well.
On the way back to camp we found a little White-tailed Mongoose family and then close to camp we stopped, switched off all lights to see the Milky Way. Many guests had never seen anything like that before and to say that they were enraptured is putting it mildly …
Tomorrow we would like to concentrate on more general game again …
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