|This incredible sight of a female leopard greeted us on our first game-drive. We photographed her until we lost visual as she disappeared into thickets.
A splendid looking lowveld bush greeted us upon our arrival in the Timbavati. Our camp of choice is Umlani, consistently great for wildlife and service and never have we left the place disappointed. The late April rains had the bush looking verdant with knee high grass and trees still in full leaf, all of which seeming to lure us into the bush to see what is around. Umlani remains a very firm favorite for the simple reason that there are not many barriers between you and nature.
|Beautiful soft evening light.
|No lack of opportunities as she kept on moving while marking her territory.
Shortly after setting of on the first drive we received a report of a female leopard, which goes by the name of the Sunset Female, which have been found further south in the reserve. Seeing her in golden afternoon light perched amongst the branches of a toppled Marula tree was a superb start to our safari and we spent the rest of the afternoon following her through the grass. At one point something alerted her and although she crouched down for a stalk she missed and only when the Grey Duiker antelope broke cover we realized what she was after. Two Spotted Hyena’s also located her and started following her in the hope of scavenging a kill. Alas they gave up after a few minutes and so did we when she entered some thick bush.
|Beautiful animals in beautful light.
The next morning we had our targets set on lion, which were found the night before. But, as often happens it was something else that provided the best photo opportunities. A herd of Kudu in great light offered some superb chances for photography. We did locate the lions later on the drive but with full bellies from a recently departed Kudu they did nothing but laze around. It was decided to see what they were up to later that day.
|A female Kudu.
|And a dominant striking male - one of Africa's most impressive antelope.
On the afternoon drive we found a very impressive old tusker. The Greater Kruger is well known for its beautiful, old elephants bulls and this one certainly let it live up to its reputation. Simply amazing, having this old boy wander within a few meters from the vehicle.
|Grand old tusker walking past our vehicle.
Further on we found the first white Rhino of the trip after which we had sundowners. The plan to follow up on the lazy lions proved productive as the bigger male claimed the carcass and was doing his best to keep other away while filling up on what was left of the now unrecognizable Kudu.
|The biggest of the two males present made sure he had his fill before letting any other lion feed.
Each morning at Umlani starts with a bang as Crested and Natal Francolin announce the morning with their riotous shouts, in stark contrast to the mesmerizing distant hoots of a white faced Scops Owl. The best photographic opportunities of the drive proved to be a dainty Steenbok in the early morning grass while the rest of the safari delivered more elephant, masses of antelope and other herbivores such as Zebra and Giraffe as well as the second leopard of our trip who strolled past our vehicle a few feet away.
|A dainty early morning steenbok.
Trying to relocate her in the afternoon proved unsuccessful. At this stage one becomes quite de-sensitized to wildlife and the drives become “quiet”. Reason being is that all the general game is so much part of the landscape that it is easily passed by without a second glance. We did however locate a very obliging bushbaby who stood still long enough for a quick pic!
|Very special to have a Lesser Bushbaby in our viewfinders.
Much of today were spent trying to relocate two male lions who were found patrolling their territory at daybreak. By the time we managed to relocate them (all credit to the two trackers Cabinet and Andrew), they were already down for the day in thick Mopane bush which made any photography almost impossible. Nonetheless the feeling of accomplishment made of for any loss of photo opportunities. Elephant were on our wish-list again for the afternoon and after a surprisingly long search we did manage to find a nice herd digging for water in the Sharalumi river. Then it was off to have our sundowners at a scenic tree earmarked earlier in the week for some astro-photography. A suitable end to a wonderful day.
|Everyday seemed to start and end with a miracle.
|Everyone in action.
Large herds of elephant moved into the area and not long into the drive we located one feeding in the woodland. This herd interacting with one another on great morning light provided ample chances of stunning images. We were still enjoying this herd when the message came that someone located a large male lion. Having missed it the previous morning we headed in his direction. This male was separated from his brother and was desperately trying to find his lost sibling. Walking through the brush while giving the occasional roar provided a most impressive welcome as we located him. The rest of the morning was spent with him as he settled down for the day.
|An intimate little moment in soft morning light.
A duo of two young Giraffe in contrasting afternoon light made for some interesting images. On a personal front I quite enjoyed this as I often do not give these elegant animals the time they deserve.
|When the light plays along, you only have to lift your camera.
|Night belongs to these guys.
Then it was off to have sundowner drinks at a scenic dam. I like going to the big cats after dark as this is the time they get active.
|Investigating every possible corner for signs of his missing brother.
Knowing the big male lion of the morning was looking for his brother I anticipated that he would get active quite soon, which he did. So finding him as he was scouring the area in search of any scent trail his sibling may have left certainly was very exciting. Yet the cherry on top was being within a few feet of this magnificent animal as he roared into the night, in the hope that his brother will answer.
|A mother and calf white Rhino on the Sharalumi river.
By now wildlife is pretty much part of the scenery and sightings of elephant, buffalo and a host of other species is part of everyday sightings. Lions were also sighted again but having had such great sightings we opted for other species. A mother and baby White Rhino on a sandbank provided new angels and although we only found them late morning when the light was harsh already, we managed some great black and white images of the due as they slowly moved towards us.
Our last drive of the safari and we decided to have a relaxing one just enjoying the area and photographing whatever we may find. That plan didn’t last. 30 minutes into the drive another guide picked up fresh leopard track and we decided to go and give him a hand. Again the skills of our trackers proved successful as they located the female leopard as she was stalking a herd of Impala. Alas they were the only ones who managed to glimpse the animal as she slinked back into cover Despite numerous efforts we couldn’t find the leopard and due to time limitations had to give up. Still a thrilling experience and a fitting end to a great few days with wonderful guests.