A Mother’s Day Surprise

At Close Quarters

Yesterday afternoon we headed back to Tingana, but found him fast asleep in a very thick area. We decided instead to move on and search elsewhere. We headed east to Torchwood, where we had found leopard tracks earlier in the day. A gorgeous Bateleur Eagle caught our attention as it perched in a tree. We waited patiently for over 20 minutes for it to fly. Our guests had been well-prepared by our Guides and managed to get some fantastic images of the take-off. A first for a few of our guests and a great image to add to their portfolios.

We then surmised that the Bateleur may have been sitting in the tree watching a nearby kill or carcass. We decided to drive into the block and check all the nearby marula tress and termite mounds for any signs of a kill or big cat. It was then that our expert tracker Mike spotted a drag mark in the sand, and immediately jumped off the vehicle to follow up. before he got 2 meters from the vehicle, one of our guests spotted a leopard close by. It was Thandi.

She was on an old impala carcass which she was almost finished eating. We wondered if her cub was possibly around, and decided to turn off the vehicles and wait to see if the cub emerged. Luckily for us, and quite fittingly on Mother’s Day, the young female cub burst from the bushes and joined her mom.

Photography was difficult due to some long grass but our guests thoroughly enjoyed a precious sighting of mum and cub interacting next to the vehicles. Such a lucky find and sighting which was enjoyed by only our vehicles. After a wonderful time spent with her, and as the light faded, we headed to Leadwood Clearing for a celebratory sun-downer. We then made our way back to the lodge for dinner.

This morning we woke up to a gloomy, overcast and cold morning. A massive cut-off low weather system has moved over the north eastern parts of South Africa, bringing with it cool and wet conditions. Luckily for us, the rain stayed at bay and we headed out on drive.

We immediately followed up on Thandi and her cub but, unfortunately, the tracks moved into a very thick drainage line and we decided to stop our search. We then decided to check the open areas nearby for any signs of cheetah tracks. On our way we had some wonderful raptor sightings and saw a Tawny Eagle, a Dark-Chanting Goshawk, 2 Gabar Goshawks and a White-Backed Vulture (who we practiced some high-key shots on against the cloudy white sky). We also had a brief Hyena Encounter.

A short while later, we found some very fresh male cheetah tracks and immediately followed up. The tracks of two males led us into a large block, but we had no luck finding them. We then stopped at Big Dam for a hot beverage and surveyed the open areas as we drank coffee. It quickly become very dark and gloomy and suddenly a gigantic elephant bull decided to join us.

He sauntered through the open area nearby and eventually even had a drink. Everyone got some amazing images of this true giant, on foot. The experience was unforgettable and  definitely one of the highlights of the trip thus far. After warming up, we decided to make our way back to camp for a hot brunch. If the rain stays away, we plan to follow up on the cheetah this afternoon.

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