FROM TREVOR MCCALL-PEAT & VILLIERS STEYN
Yesterday afternoon we welcomed a new group of guests on our third of three back-to-back Big Cat Photo Safaris. After a light lunch and briefing, we headed out on drive to see what we could find. It was a very hot afternoon and we decided that we would check up on Hosana male leopard and his impala kill once it had cooled down. This would be a clever move.
After driving around and viewing some of the general game in the area, we headed to Hosana. He was actively feeding on his impala. Luckily for us, he had moved his impala kill within the tree and was now facing us perfectly. We had ample time to get some unforgettable images. Hosana was dropping bits of his kill and we discussed how amazing it would be if a hyena came and distracted him.
All of a sudden, a herd of about 15 elephants arrived on the scene. They walked in single file on a road behind the drainage line in which Hosana’s ‘tree’ was. Unbelievable. We had a leopard in the foreground, feeding in a tree, while this large herd of elephants moved almost silently through the bush not 10 meters behind him. Everyone was gob smacked and speechless at the scene presented before them. This was a once in a lifetime sighting indeed.
Hosana looked like he was ready to climb down, and for those brave enough on the vehicle, they prepared to get a panning image of the leopard as he descended. Our guides assisted with settings and then, he jumped. The results were spectacular. A risk worth taking. We then decided that it was time to celebrate and headed to a nearby waterhole for sundowners. We were treated to an amazing sunset and a full moon rise. The moon was orange and the sky was red. It was beautiful.
We had just climbed back onto the vehicle, when our Ranger exclaimed ‘Lions!!’ Suddenly the entire Styx Pride and their cubs arrived on the scene. We quickly repositioned our vehicles and photographed the lions as they lined up on the other side of the waterhole to drink. Amazing! Our guests managed to get some great shots in the difficult night time conditions. Feeling very happy with ourselves, we started making our way back to the lodge. Our luck was not finished yet.
As we were driving, we suddenly came upon the entire Nkuhuma pride with their cubs, in the middle of the road. Unreal! We then followed them as they sauntered down the road. Our guests were able to practice their manual settings and capture images created by the clever use of spotlights. This was a real cherry on top of a truly special and once in a lifetime game drive on Big Ca Photo Safari. We got back to the lodge and had a hearty dinner and chatted about the crazy first drive.
This morning we woke up to a male lion roaring close to camp and, after coffee, we headed out to try and find him. After about 20 minutes of tracking, we found the entire Nkuhuma Pride with one of the Birmingham Male lions just lazing about. After looking around, we discovered another two Birmingham Males nearby on a wildebeest kill. We presume the Nkuhumas made the kill in the night and drew the Birminghams in.
While one of the males was feeding, another male tried to get to the carcass to feed but was growled at angrily. He then proceeded to leopard crawl his way to the carcass in a submissive display. Amazing behavior to witness. We noticed that the Nkuhumas had disappeared and headed to Treehouse dam to see if they had gone for a drink. There we found the whole pride plus one Birmingham Male lying at the water’s edge. The scene was straight out of the Lion King. We photographed them before deciding to check up on Hosana and his impala kill that was a few hundred meters away.
We got to Hosana who was still resting up in the tree while a hyena lurked below him, eager to pick up any scraps from the kill. Out of nowhere, a female leopard appeared, it was Thandi. She looked up at her younger step brother Hosana as he looked down at her. She then moved through the drainage line to the other side and we went around to follow her.
We were photographing Thandi when suddenly a steenbok appeared. She stalked the small antelope before… Boom! She caught it in a flash, right in front of us! Unbelievable. We could not believe our eyes. The hyena heard the commotion and was on the scene in a flash. It chased Thandi who ran up into the nearest Marula tree with her prize. She began to pluck its fur out, dropping it down to a very unimpressed hyena below.
The noise had then attracted Hosana onto the scene who went and lay under the tree below Thandi. He didn’t climb up and after a short while he decided to return to his impala kill. We were gob smacked by the chaos and did not know where to look next. We then decided to head back to see if the other Birmingham Males had joined the Nkuhumas at Treehouse dam.
We arrived and, not 5 minutes later, one of the males sauntered into the sighting to the water’s edge and drank for ages. He drank so much, we thought we could see the water level drop. The light was stunningly golden and our guests produced some outstanding images. Having had what can only be described as another once in a lifetime game drive (the second in less than 24 hours) we headed back to camp for a hearty brunch before we will teach our guests some post-processing techniques. The At Close Quarters Experience… It’s about more than just a photograph.