LIVE UPDATE from our #BigCatPhotoSafari to Sabi Sand, South Africa.
By Specialist Photographic Guides Villiers Steyn & Lance van de Vyver.
Our second group of guests arrived at a very hot Djuma Private Game Reserve for the final #BigCatSafari of 2018. Excitement was thick in the air when we headed out on drive. We were alerted to some leopard tracks that had been found close to camp and we split our vehicles to follow up on the tracks and assist in locating the cat.
Whilst one of our vehicles was following a drainage line, we heard some squirrels alarm calling and two Steenok looking intently in a specific direction. We decided to head off-road and we all looked right, down into the drainage line, to see if a leopard was relaxing in the coolness below. A quick look left, however, and we were all surprised to find Hosana lying just a few meters from the vehicle in some shade on top of the drainage line.
We spent the next 2 hours with him. At times we just sat patiently while he slept but we knew we needed to be patient to get photographic opportunities. He stretched and yawned a few times before making his way into the drainage line and going to sleep again. We positioned our vehicles side on, in the hope that when he woke up he would walk directly towards us. We then switched the vehicles off and waited.
Our persistence and patience, in the high heat, paid off. Hosana woke up and walked directly towards us. This gave everyone the opportunity to capture some spectacular shots of the stunning leopard walking straight into their lenses and souls. One of our guests said she was so excited that she struggled to hold her camera and lens steady.
The light faded and everyone was ready to quench their thirst so we made our way to Treehouse Dam for a well-deserved drink. On our way back to camp saw a white tailed mongoose and a gennet. A great start to the safari.
During the night, two leopards were seen mating in front of camp on the webcam, so this morning we wanted to try and find them. We soon found tracks for both leopards and dropped our trackers off to see if they could locate the mating pair.
We drove large loops in the area. On the way we stopped and photographed a large, very relaxed herd of elephants in the early morning light. We also found a large breeding herd of buffalo (100 or so individuals). We managed to get some great back-lit images of them with the sun glistening on their horns. The herd also had many red and yellow billed ox-peckers with them which provided great photographic opportunities.
After collecting our trackers, we knew that the leopards had gone north and took a chance heading in that direction. One of our trackers noticed that a zebra (part of a large herd) was looking intently in a specific direction. We took a big chance and headed into the bush. And what did we find, not one, not two but three leopards.
Tingana was accompanied by a skittish female leopard and his son Hosana. They were moving through the bush together. We managed to see mating happen between Tingana and the female a few times, but at a distance. The female is still nervous of vehicles so we gave her plenty of space.
Hosana broke away from the love birds and we followed him for a while, getting some fantastic images of him as he moved through the bush, yawned, smelt trees and went about life in his playful demeanor. We also got some fantastic images of Tingana. After such a busy morning, we did not even have time to stop for coffee before heading back to camp for breakfast and Lightroom sessions.
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