October in Mana

Hello readers I hope you are all well and have had a chance to go on a safari at some point this year, or at least have plans to.

These past two months have been extremely busy and we have met lots of very excited guests here at Kavinga, and we have had the most amazing wildlife encounters and magical moments. 

The heat in October has set in and the sightings lately have been unreal; absolutely fantastic actually!  This last week has been all about leopard. The first sighting was on our morning walk, the type of walk that you would describe as being the perfect morning.

We had started our walk from camp, talking about trees and tracks when suddenly we heard a troop of Vervet Monkeys chattering in a panic.  All bush fanatics know what that means—a predator!  I knew it wasn’t the lions, we had seen them on the other side of the concession. Our slow walk turned into a speed march to catch up to the commotion.  My guests kept up with me; cameras in hand and eyes wide open ready to spot what ever it was causing the panic.

The monkeys lost focus, hit the ground and scattered, one of my guests excitedly whispered, “There! There!”  We went across in the direction which he had seen movement, but it was just one of the monkeys running away.

We did find a large set of fresh leopard tracks that I tried to follow but lost them unfortunately.  I decided to take everyone up to one of my favorite look out points up on a cliff nearby overlooking the Rukomechi river bed with a big over hanging Strangler Fig.  We were admiring the beautiful views when I looked across at the fig tree and the leopard we were tracking was sunning himself on a huge branch.  We all got to see him as he woke up, noticed us and leapt off the branch and landed on the ground in a puff of dust then bolted off.  We were all bubbling with excitement over this treat we weren’t expecting when we noticed him trotting slowly across the river bed below us and then disappear into the thicket.  Seeing a leopard in a vehicle is great, but seeing it on foot makes you realize you are in the middle of the wild and you are experiencing true magic.

The leopard sightings didn’t stop there,  we have been so lucky and have seen several leopard in camp, at the pan, and on other walks too.

The elephant, buffalo and lion have also been regular sightings and we’ve seen a few lion kills in the last few days!  This is truly an amazing time of the year to visit the bush. 

Now we look forward to the rains which will bring a fresh green flourish ,many exciting migratory birds, including the illusive African Pitta!

Lion or Leopard?

The lions had left the gorge with all the cubs, they were on the move again, and I was under pressure for the new group of guests arriving that afternoon. They were all on a photographic training tour around Southern Africa, stopping over at Kavinga for one night with high expectations. It was time to get serious, a quote I had learned and heard many times as an apprentice.

Luckily Clyde had told me roughly where he saw the last set of lion tracks, heading towards the Tsetse Fly Research Station.
Our group of Photographers arrived fully kitted with all their equipment and gear. “I hope that we find something good!” I said to Luke anxiously.

With no time to waste we had a quick cup of coffee and we were off! The first question I asked everyone was “Would you like to see leopard or lion?” just as a joke to get them excited. They all requested ‘’Leopard please!” and giggled as they knew that it was not that easy!

Within 10 minutes of our drive, we had watched a herd of chocolate coated elephant wallowing in the mud, then a little further down the road we saw the leopard! She was lying in the open on the bank of the Rukomeche river bed.
It was our resident female leopard- the super model, Ushingi. Caitlin named her in our first year we started at Kavinga. She would never run away and actually started coming closer to see us in the vehicle, she knew we were not a threat and was happy to let us take pictures.
Ushingi means the brave one or the courageous warrior. We named her this because of her personality and also the characteristic double line of spots on her forehead, like the war paint of a warrior.

After leaving Ushingi, we made our way towards the tsetse Fly Research Station and ended up photographing baobab tree silhouettes.
I was listening carefully to the Photographic tutor and picking up valuable photography tips while everyone was learning how to take the best pic and what settings to use. We had just jumped out of the vehicle to get a better angle of the baobab, when I told everyone to stop what they were doing and stand still. From the corner of my eye I picked up movement. It was one of the male lions lying under a bush about 20 meters away. We quietly got back into the vehicle and drove up to take a closer look. The whole pride was there and the cameras started to work over time! Now I know what it sounds like when 10,000 pictures are taken in 5 minutes. The bush paparazzi had arrived!

The lions have since killed and been feeding on an elephant in the spring in front of camp. The last three days have been awesome for our guests who got to see the restless cubs play while the pride gorges themselves and sleeps off the food baby-belly up.
Our guests have also been very lucky to see leopard drinking at the pan every night this week!
Its constant action during this time of the season, seeing either lion or leopard OR both!fullsizeoutput_161

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