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

A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Hello readers, sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote to you, its been pretty hectic down here. Camp has been very busy lately with a lot of bookings from excited wildlife enthusiasts and photographers.

This week all started with a bit of sad news after I had found an elephant carcass. I was lead to it by following a circling flock of vultures. The elephant had died from natural causes, it was not a pretty sight after the hyena had been there, so we left the scene to try find something more exciting. “Lion” the guests asked!

By sunrise the next day we were out on foot, ready for the lions! The wind started to pick up which made tracking near impossible. So we made our way to the spring in the Rukomeche where we saw a very exciting bird. It was a lifer for me- A Wattled Starling! The first Wattled Starling that has been seen at Kavinga actually. After taking enough photos and awwing over the bird, we made our way back to camp for some bacon and eggs. We couldn’t sit back and relax after breakfast though, we had lions to find!

Later that day we went to the Chewuya Gorge where we had last seen the lion tracks heading. I suspected they would be drinking in the rock pools we used to swim in. When the water was still quite high in the beginning of the season, we used to take guests there and have a quick dip in the cool water of the pools. Our guests always asked if there were crocodiles in the water and would not be happy with my assurances of their safety until they saw that Luke, our eager Learner Guide, was in the water and not getting eaten! But this time it was not crocodiles that made our guests nervous: it was the lions! Unfortunately the lions got our wind and scrambled up the side of the Gorge. We waited for them to settle and then followed them up. What a view! From the mountains of the escarpment you can see the whole of Mana, the lions were just in the foreground, and a stunning baobab on a ridge was the center of stage. It was magical!
Around the dinner table that evening, we all shared our stories of our sightings and highlights of the day. When all of a sudden, Clyde got up very excited and with his flash light waving from left to right, he  chirped “Leopard! Leopard! Leopard!” We all left the dinner table and peered over the edge, and there he was. A magnificent big male leopard drinking at our pan, “wow” I thought, “what a way to put a cherry on the top and end such a wonderful day.”

After all the stories and excitement at dinner, I had more guests wanting to see the lions on foot, so off we went at sunrise back to the Gorge! There were tracks everywhere leading in all directions but we kept our original route that lead up further into the Gorge. We noticed there were some fresh tracks leading up the mountain, but there were no cub tracks following them. When movement amongst the rocks got our attention. There were the four tiny cubs! Trotting straight towards us! I told everyone to keep still and quiet while I looked for the adults with my binoculars.
Amazingly, one little curious cub stopped about 5 meters from us up on a rock. He lay gazing into each of our eyes and was probably thinking “what are these odd creatures?”
I felt my skin tingle and hairs stood up on the back of my neck .
The little cub began to call, I looked back to check for mum but instead I saw my guests smiling in aww.
I then realized why the hairs on my neck stood, it was not fear it was a feeling. I cannot explain exactly, but I knew that this was one of those moments that was a once in a lifetime experience that myself and my guests would always remember forever.

44728447_1882358531812980_7245368047463038976_n

I am going to stop there for now and fill you in with my next blog! What happened the next day and yesterday, is a whole new story!
Keep an eye out on my Instagram page to see my pictures @hookedonsafari.

Thanks to Clyde Elgar for this fantastic photograph of the curious cub!

The Cub Returns!

Picking up from where we left off with some good and happy news! The lion cub that got separated from the pride has been found and is back with his mother and siblings.

The evening the cub was found was quite an exciting night in fact. At about midnight our guests were awakened by the bellows of an impala coming from the pan. They shone their lights to find two impala had been chased towards the pan by the pack of Wild Dog. One impala was caught and killed and the other had run into the pan. The noise attracted the attention of our famous Kavinga Hyena clan who wasted no time in gathering their fellow scavengers and making the most of this easy meal. They chased the Wild Dog off their kill, but soon after were chased off themselves by the lion pride! The lions obviously heard the commotion too, and came to investigate. The pride spent the evening finishing off the two impala. They had a drink while we watched with our morning coffee, then moved off to sleep the day away in the shady riverbed.
The lion hunted again the next day, as two impala would have been just an appetizer to 16 hungry lions!

On our morning drive today we spotted vulture circling. This could only mean one thing- there was a carcass somewhere!   Myself and two brave guests (one of them coming to Africa for her very first time and excited for an adventure on foot), decided they would like to see if it was lions and what they might have killed.  We picked up on some tracks and followed them in towards a thicket while keeping an eye on the circling vultures above hoping we weren’t going to end up being their next meal!   Suddenly I saw movement!
It was one of the lioness trying to pull a buffalo carcass into the shade, it took her at least three minutes to notice we were there only about 20 meters down wind.  But when she did, she let out an almighty growl and snarled at us flicking her tail while we backed off slowly, but when we thought we were in the clear after getting some awsome pictures Steed pointed over my shoulder towards the thicket and said “There lion!”
Another three lions were watching us the whole time, as I looked back to check on my guests who were both full of adrenaline- shaking with excitement but still smiling (which was a good thing!), one of the lions got up.  The big male gave off an even louder piercing growl as he advanced forward!
That was enough warning for my first timer so we backed out slowly and left the pride alone to finish off their meal in peace.

It was a very exciting morning and I cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!

Cheers for now,

Siraaj

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑