The highlight of this week was not a sighting itself but the way in which tracker Jerry Hambana spotted the Tutlwa female (picture 3) a couple of days ago. I really don’t have words to describe how phenomenal his spot of this leopard was; she was lying in a low branch of a Marula tree, the better part of a kilometre away, and there were numerous other marula trees scattered between her tree and where we were, significantly impacting his view.
We were sitting with one of the Mhangeni lionesses, when suddenly Jerry spoke up and said that he wasn’t sure but he thought he could see a leopard. We all immediately looked up but couldn’t see anything, and even after he had started re-checking with binoculars, he wasn’t 100% sure. He said he’d seen something moving in a distant tree which he thought may have been a leopard’s tail, but it was only after we had driven a further 200m in that direction that we were able to confirm with binoculars that it was in fact a leopard.
Although cloudy, the sighting was photographically phenomenal, and I’m sure you’ll be enjoying a few more highlights from various other rangers over the next week or so.
For now, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Nhlanguleni female watches the approach of a mating pair of lions. The leopard had just hoisted her bushbuck kill (the clip above) into the boughs of this Sausage tree, and we waited with bated breath – as, I imagine, did she – as the lions approached. Unbelievably they walked straight past the tree and did not notice the leopard or her kill. Eventually though the lions returned and the lioness did climb the tree in an attempt to rob the kill, but thankfully the leopard just managed to hoist the bushbuck carcass out of reach in time. f5.6, 1/160s, ISO 1250
Callum Gowar, Freddy Ngobeni and guests set off in search of a male cheetah, whose tracks Freddy had just spotted, as the morning sun rises behind them. f4.5, ISO 640, 1/640s. Photograph by James Tyrrell
The Tutlwa female rests in an open Marula after hoisting her impala kill. In six years of living in the bush, this was the single best spot of an animal I have ever witnessed, as tracker Jerry Hambana saw the leopard from 820 metres away (we measured the distance on Google Earth), and without the aid of binoculars! Superhuman eyesight! f6.3, ISO 1000, 1/200s. Photograph by James Tyrrell
An unorthodox take on a white rhino bull. f16, ISO 640, 1/25s. Photograph by Don Heyneke.
A single exposure leads to this beautiful image of celestial south (the centre of the whorl). f4.5, ISO 100, 37min exposure. Photograph by Sean Cresswell
A fantastic image of a flock of red-billed oxpeckers congregating on the branch of a dead Leadwood tree. I can’t help but wonder if that one at the bottom left has just flown head-first into the tree… f5.6, ISO 400, 1/4000s. Photograph by Don Heyneke
Lions mating can be an aggressive affair, as evidenced by this photo of one of the Matimba males mating with a Mhangeni lioness. f5.6, ISO 1000, 1/1600s. Photograph by Don Heyneke.
Dust billows after more aggression between a Matimba male and a Mhangeni lioness, but this time over food. The lions had killed a small buffalo calf early in the morning, and the male had hogged the carcass for himself. As this lioness approached, the male began investigating her mating potential, and she took the opportunity to try and feed, but as soon as the male saw this he reacted violently. f3.5, ISO 800, 1/1000s. Photograph by James Tyrrell
The open foliage of the drought has allowed for some wonderfully unobstructed views of some of the smaller creatures of the bush, like this lesser bush-baby. f5.6, ISO 1250, 1/200s. Photograph by Don Heyneke
The pronounced chin of one of the Matimba males. f5.6, ISO 800, 1/1000s. Photograph by Don Heyneke.
Freddy Ngobeni again, this time capturing some footage of a herd of elephants drinking at a small pan. f2.8, ISO 800, 1/200s. Photograph by James Tyrrell
As cute as things may appear, this was actually a rather disturbing scene, as the cub at the back was continually prevented from nursing, not only by its litter-mates but also by its mother. The cub was much smaller than the other two, and as female hyenas only have two teats, its bigger siblings were able to monopolise the feeding. Litters of three in spotted hyenas are the exception rather than the rule, and siblicide, whether active or passive as in the case of young dominating the feeding, accounts for a 25% loss in cubs in their first month. f3.5, ISO 800, 1/320s. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A female giraffe, distinguished by her thinner ossicones (giraffes do not technically have horns), wanders off into the sunset. f5, ISO 500, 1/1250s. Photograph by James Tyrrell
Tracker Sersant Sibuyi and Ranger Andrea Sithole – also one of Londolozi’s top trackers – enjoy a sighting of a Mhangeni lioness with their guests. f10, ISO 1250, 1/125s. Photograph by James Tyrrell
Two Verraux’s Eagle Owls emerge from their riparian roost of the day to start the evening from a dead Knobthorn tree vantage point. f/2.8, ISO 800, 1/320s. Photograph by Sean Cresswell.
A new day dawns over the Sand River and the big hippo pool in front of Pioneer Camp. f7.1, ISO 800, 1/800s. Photograph by James Tyrrell