Some of you might know them from our blogs and others may have seen them on WildEarth’s SafariLive that broadcasts live from the Sabi Sands every morning and afternoon. Let me introduce you to some of Djuma’s biggest stars on photographic safaris:
The other day someone asked me: “If you could photograph only one leopard in Djuma, who would it be?” “It would have to be Tingana!” was my immediate response. Not only because he’s one of the biggest male leopards I’ve ever seen, but also because he’s so incredibly relaxed around vehicles. Unlike other shy males in the area, such as Mr. Anderson and Gijima, Tingana doesn’t mind posing for the cameras, often walking straight towards us up the two-track, patrolling his territory in broad daylight or draping himself over termite mounds while the cameras click away.
A BigCatPhotoSafari seldom goes by without this 11 year-old leopard making an appearance, but as soon as he appears, he disappears again on one of his relentless patrols that crisscross a massive portion of the northern Sabi Sands. As a result, sightings of Tingana often come when you least expect it!
- The Birmingham Males
There are few things as impressive as a big black-maned lion, but put four of them together and you’ve got a whole new level of magnificence! The four Birmingham Males rule the northern Sands and have fathered the cubs of at least three prides seen in the area: the Nkuhumas, the Styx Pride and the Torchwood Pride.
Although we often find only one or two of them together, they do sometimes all meet up for what always turns out to be a roaring extravaganza. And should any of the pride females make a kill you can bet your bottom dollar – at least one of the Birminghams will be there the next morning. It’s a real privilege to have four such awe-inspiring beasts roam our traversing area at Djuma.
After her mother, Karula, disappeared last year, Thandi has become the dominant female leopard of Djuma. She’s approximately 10 years old and has a twin sister named Shadow who we see a bit more seldom. Although Thandi is nice and relaxed when you give her space, she can be a bit feisty if you try to get too close. With her it’s best to take out the long lenses and rather let her come to you…
With her previous cub, Thamba, now independent, Thandi has given birth to a new little fluff ball at the end of 2017. The cub is believed to be a female and if all goes well, we’ll be able to photograph the two of them together throughout this year. Let’s just hope Thandi does as good a job at protecting her as she did with Thamba.
- The cheetah boys
Cheetahs are not frequently seen in the Sabi Sands, at least not anything near as frequently as in more open places like the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park or the neighbouring Manyeleti Game Reserve. The latter, however, does border the northern-most property of the Sands called Buffelshoek and, fortunately for us, we’re allowed to traverse it on our BigCatPhotoSafaris.
Massive natural clearings lie scattered across Buffelshoek and they form part of the home range of two stunning male cheetahs. Just like Tingana and the Birminghams, they seem to be on a never-ending mission to patrol their territory, constantly on the walk during the cooler hours of the day, scent-marking on each and every large tree trunk they pass. A sighting of them is never guaranteed, but they seem to enter the area two or three times a month for a few days at a time, so whenever we drive through those stunning open areas, we know we’re giving ourselves a chance to bump into these two beauties.
Apart from them, Buffelshoek is also frequented by a lone male cheetah and a female with three sub-adult cubs from time to time.
Quite a few young leopards call Djuma home and, of these, Hosana is my favourite to photograph. Even though he turns two in February 2018, he’s still too young and small to challenge the dominant male, Tingana, so for the time being, he’ll most likely spend his time lying low in his mother, Karula’s former home range. She, and Hosana’s twin sister, Xongile, unfortunately disappeared without a trace in 2017.
Hosana is generally seen on Vuyatela in an area around Twin Dams and Treehouse Dam, where there is plenty of food, water, cover and large trees to stash carcasses in. It’s always worth driving through this area two or three times a day, just to make sure you didn’t accidentally miss this well-camouflaged youngster…
If you’d like to see and photograph the stars of Djuma, please click here for more detail about our 2018 safari dates. Spaces are filling up very rapidly, so book soon to avoid disappointment!