The past few weeks we have put winter in the lime light. We have stressed, in many blogs, the power of this season and its beauty. The light, the mist, the colours and feeling. Winter has certainly delivered for us. Each day and each opportunity is rare and unique. We have witnessed some great spectacles, endured the cold, patiently waited for opportunities to arise and have been rewarded with some amazing stories and images that will forever be etched into our memories. For this reason I thought it may be fitting to share some of my greatest highlights of this winter so far. Each image holds a story for me, and may not be the most photographically sound, however, each moment captured will stay with me for many years to come.
The Mashaba female has a quick drink during a lenghty period of mating with the Marthly male. Here we positioned the vehicle in hope that she would come and drink at this specific spot. The angle was great and there were no obstructions in our way to get this shot.
With the sun setting in the background, we were alerted to a predator by a troop of monkeys, however, literally moments before they began their alarm, this young monkey sat in the grass feeding on seeds and was not phased by our vehicle at all. A rare opportunity indeed.
I will never forget this encounter with the Gowrie male, who approached our vehicle and stood a little more than a metre from us. He was inspecting scent from a female who had lay in the exact position where we had parked our car. This was unknown to us at the time and made the encounter so much more intense.
Sleeping lions are a part of life out here. They are lazy cats that conserve their energy until the moment is right. In this sighting, we arrived to the Sparta pride, fast asleep in an eroded open area, and braced ourselves for what we thought would be a fairly common sighting of lions sleeping. Within minutes of being there, the lions perked up, locked eyes on to a male giraffe and without warning, a lioness took off after the giraffe at high speed. This was the only image I managed to capture. A moment I won’t forget soon.
Tracking a leopard is often painstaking and intense. It is a process that can sometimes take hours. This morning we were on the trail of the Tamboti female and in the distance we heard some hyena vocalising and screeching. We set off in hot pursuit of this noise and arrived to find these two hyena fighting over an impala kill that they had stolen from the female. Fortunately later that morning we found her as well, grooming the fresh blood from her face with an empty stomach.
Another encounter with the Gowrie male allowed me to capture this beautiful shot. Obviously showing his anger here, which was not at us but at a female who had stumbled upon him. Being a solitary animal they do not enjoy the presence of other leopards close by.
An afternoon spent with a crash of rhino, the sun setting and some good friends. What more could you ask for?
For 14 months I waited patiently to watch lions cross the causeway. In the past two months I have witnessed it three times, and each is as special as the last. However, this time all things fell into place. The light was good, I had my camera in the vehicle, and all four Majingilane males crossed at once!
Reflections are sometimes hard to come by and photograph, and so when this opportunity presented itself I was so excited to tick the box. This pan is the perfect place to watch animals like elephant and rhino drink during the day and happens to be very close to an active hyena den. Here an adult comes to cool itself down after a long morning foraging.
One of my highlights of this winter, purely because of the circumstances. A quiet afternoon, the setting sun, an alarm call, then silence. A troop of monkeys chattering, then alarming profusely. Chasing the light we arrived to the Tu Tones male leopard walking into the sun, backlit in perfect glowing light.
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland