Back on Big Cat Photo Safari

At Close Quarters

Our third Big Cat Photo Safari kicked off yesterday afternoon at the stunning Djuma Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin. Our 12 guests arrived and enjoyed a light lunch and briefing whilst a large herd of elephants had a mud bath in front of camp. We then headed out on our first drive. We decided, in true Big Cat Photo Safari tradition, to see if we could find some spotted cats.

We very quickly found tracks of a female leopard with a young male and began the tracking process. It seemed however, that the leopards were always one step ahead of us, even walking over our vehicle tracks. When we heard some frantic alarm calls of a nearby francolin, we thought we would be successful, but unfortunately the cats were nowhere to be found.

We then heard that the Torchwood lion pride had just crossed into our traversing area. We left the leopard search and headed to the lions where we found the entire pride of 14, coincidentally on Lion Tree Road. The sun had since set but the sky was a brilliant array of colours. We used this opportunity to help our guests photograph the lions as some posed beautifully on a termite mound with the twilight sky behind them. We also helped our guests get some shots of the lions as they moved through the darkness.

We left the lions and headed back to camp where, on the way, we had an amazing sighting of a Southern White-Faced Owl and a Spotted Genet.

This morning we made our way out into a beautiful sunrise and headed back to where we had left the lions last night. We spotted some vultures and bateleurs sitting in a tree and investigated. We found a kudu carcass but it seemed the antelope died of natural causes and there were no lions at the site. We then followed the lion tracks all the way to the Kruger boundary where they crossed out of our traversing area.

We decided to head back to where we left the leopard tracks yesterday evening. It is Impala rutting season and the Impala bulls are out in force and challenging one another, they seem to be everywhere. Their rutting calls are often mistaken for alarm calls at the moment.

Before we could get tracking, we heard that Tingana male leopard was potentially about to cross into our traversing area, and made our way in that direction. We soon caught up with Tingana on Gowrie Main where he then crossed into Djuma. It seems that he has really improved his condition in that last few weeks and was on a serious territorial patrol.

We watched as he scent marked and rubbed himself (while on his hind legs) on bushes as he patrolled, even showing us a Flehmen Grimace. It was great to see him looking so healthy again. He twice made a territorial ‘sawing’ call right next to us. What an experience (one that photographs cannot express).

Our guests thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and, with the guidance of our Specialist Photographic Guides, managed to take some fantastic images of the big male leopard as he patrolled determindely. He provided us with opportunities to get some walk-by shots and shots of him walking towards us. It was truly a photographers dream morning.

After spending un uninterrupted hour with him, we headed back to the lodge for brunch and some post-processing and photographic training with our Specialist Photographic Guides. This afternoon we plan to follow up on Tingana or possibly the female leopard tracks from yesterday evening.


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