LIVE UPDATE from Villiers Steyn & Lance van de Vyver.
Yesterday afternoon our guests arrived to begin their 4 night Big Cat Photographic Safari at Djuma Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin. After a light lunch and briefing, everyone headed to the vehicles before making their way into the reserve. A call on the radio alerted us to a sighting nearby where some male lions were apparently stationary on a stolen buffalo kill. After arriving at the sighting we discovered it was the three Avoca Males. They are a young coalition who have been moving into the area once controlled by the mighty Birmingham coalition. The Birminghams recently moved south to the rivers of Londolozi and Mala Mala and we have not seen them this year. From a photographic perspective, the sighting was not ideal as the lions were sleepy in a deep gully. Nevertheless, a great start to the trip.
Having spent some time watching the lions we left the sighting to look for signs of leopards in the area. Two sets of male leopard tracks were soon discovered. Our rangers told us that Tingana and another less seen male, Gijima, had a stand-off the previous evening. We believed this was evidence of that stand-off. After following the tracks, we bumped into a ‘daga boy’ (a lone male buffalo) and managed to get a few images of the gnarly beast before moving on.
The temperature had now dropped and we surmised that the lions may be more active and headed back to them. To our surprise we found a leopard on the track leading to the lions. It was Tingana. He was moving through the bush, and allowed us to spend a wonderful hour with him as he navigated the roads and open areas into Buffelshoek. Photographic opportunities included multiple walk-by shots in the road as well as the big leopard cruising though some open grassy areas. He soon found evidence of another leopard and skulled in the thickets where we decided to leave him to go about his business. On the drive back to camp we had a sighting of a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl catching a mouse.
This morning we made our way east in the hope of finding some leopards that we don’t often see such as Quarantine and Inkanyeni. It was a stunning crisp winter’s morning. Luck was on our side and we bumped into a leopard in the road. It was Inkanyeni and her sub-adult cub. Fantastic- we have not seen this female leopard for a very long time and a real bonus to see the cub. The mother-and-cub pair are extremely relaxed and walked together in the road- sometimes side-by-side, sometimes the cub led the charge and sometimes mum was in front. Photographic opportunities included walk-by shots and shots of the two drinking together at a small pan. After providing a fantastic sighting, the leopards crossed south out of our boundary.
Deciding that coffee was necessary, we made our way to Green Pan nearby. On the way, we had a road block of elephants which we sat with for some time. The youngsters provided great entertainment and we all enjoyed spending time in the presence of these large but gentle giants. We stopped for coffee at Green Pan before heading back in the direction of camp. We stumbled onto fresh lion tracks in the north east and followed up unsuccessfully. Closer to camp we found some fresh leopard tracks too. This means we have some great options to follow up on for drive this afternoon.
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