One of the most exciting parts of embarking on a game drive with a new set of guests is staring out over the savanna and feeling the immense sense of freedom and possibility. The feeling that anything can happen at any time, around any corner. So you can just imagine the excitement that waved over me when meeting my first set of guests that I have had in months! Having been spending my time in the Landcare and Habitat management department of the lodge for awhile, I have been only too thrilled to be back out on game drive. I have always valued that my profession is one where I can watch the sun rise in the morning and set at night, and still be able to capture what nature has to offer in-between. I have had some incredible sightings over the last few weeks and I have put a selection together here of some of these special moments.
I hope you all enjoy the photographs below as much as I enjoyed taking them!
The beauty of a protected area like this is the natural movement of animals across property boundaries. To see this young female leopard and have no idea who she is makes our job so incredibly exciting. We saw her with her mother in the most southern part of the reserve and only later identified the pair as the Little Bush female and her sub-adult cub.
With the chill of winter well set into the morning air, most reptiles and chelonians take any opportunity to sun themselves, even if it means taking a few risks. These terrapins have chosen an unlikely sunning spot of the back of a hippopotamus!
Bennet pulled off one of his best spots yet when he sited this young female leopard on the northern bank of the Manyeleti River on the top of a rocky outcrop. It was only after zooming into the photo once back at camp that we were able to identify her as the Maliliwane Young female, another leopard I had never seen before!
While we were marveling at the Maliliwane Young female, my two guests in the back row spotted the Gowrie male in the riverbed below. We were able to drive down into the dry riverbed and watch him as he peered at us through the Phragmites reeds.
Gowrie then took interest in a bushbuck nearby and crept closer allowing a hint of sunlight to catch his coat.
We have had a few odd days for winter with thunderclouds building up over the reserve. It did however allow for a beautiful backdrop as sun-rays burst through the clouds onto a herd of elephant feeding in the Sand River.
We spent a good hour with this large elephant herd as it slowing meandered towards a small watering hole. It is always such a treat to watch a group with such a variety of ages.
The irony of the Common Reedbuck is that they are not common at all and we only occasionally see one or two in the southern part of the reserve. This male was surprisingly relaxed and very obliging for a quick photograph.
A very unimpressed Tutlwa stares out disappointedly after a Spotted hyena has just stolen her fresh impala kill and promptly stashed it in the middle of a small dam.
In golden light, with tail poised, the Tamboti female patrolled her territory, scent marked and even vocalised for us!
A flash of blue darted across the road, the characteristic bill of a kingfisher clearly visible. However, the size was just too small to be a Brown-hooded Kingfisher. To my excitement, a it was a Striped Kingfisher that paused momentarily in a Marula tree, allowing me a brief moment to capture this photograph.
A Sparta lioness peers intently over the ribcage of a zebra kill as she warily assesses male lion calls resounding through the bush.
One of the most spectacular rhino interactions I have seen in a fair while: this young calf and her mother had three bulls all vying for their attention.
I have become evermore entranced by the unique patterns in individual animals coats. Piva has a perfect rossette flower on his flank with a centre spot surrounded by several others.
Beside one of the most southern dams in the reserve, we patiently watched as two enormous white rhino suspiciously made their way down to drink as the Mhangeni Pride edged closer…
Two lionesses observe the pachyderm from the vantage of the dam wall: ultimate stare down.
The pride of 13 spent the next hour creeping closer and closer to the pair pf rhino as they neared the waters edge. The two rhino kept chasing them off and returning to drink. this dance ensued and eventually the lion lost interest and moved off, allowing the rhino to finally have a drink of water.
Written and Photographed by: Andrea Campbell