Friday, July 25, 2014

2014 LIONS & LEOPARDS of Mala Mala - July

The July trip has just ended and the move towards the "dry season" is becoming more and more evident, waterholes are drying up, the bush is turning into its winter colours and the early mornings were particularly cold !! :)

Our first stop was the Big Cat Reserve and some highlights were the lion pride feeding on a giraffe, night photography of the leopards and the porcupines, the female King Cheetah, Floppy and Hunters the resident male Cheetahs out on patrol and a great sighting of the three elephants, Becky, Malutka and Juba !!

Thanks very much to Ben our Ranger for looking after us and all the staff at Tshukudu.

Next stop was a 4 night stay inside the Kruger National Park at Satara camp. As water levels begin to drop the animals are beginning to concentrate along the river lines and large reservoirs. On our first day we found a young male lion trailing far behind the rest of his pride, a  very cooperative common Duiker, lots of beautiful Lilac Breasted Rollers, large herds of elephants and the two main highlights were a herd of 800 plus Cape Buffalo who all arrived at Girivana waterhole and filled it up completely. Lions were close behind and they ran in on the buffalo a couple of times without success. On our final morning we found two male cheetahs on the road south towards Skukuza. We got some great images of them as they scent marked and looked out for potential prey.

Our last stop was a three night stay at Mala Mala, where the focus shifted to Lions and Leopards. We had great success with both - starting with our first sighting of the Marthli Pride barely 20 mins after we left camp. The large Lioness without a tail is always an interesting sight.

We continued our drive in search of the cubs of the "Kekelezi female" and found them resting in a dry mud wallow, it is always a real privilege to see these cats, and even more special to see cubs.

During our stay we also found a male Leopard known as the "Tree house male" and he was busy stalking Impala. He did not succeed on this occasion but we still managed to follow him after dark before we left him near the Sand River.

We had a brief encounter with "PAP" another dominant Male Leopard in the area.

One Highlight was finding the Kekelezi female with her two cubs as well as the "Airstrip Male" leopard all at the same kill site. To see a male leopard around cubs is very rare, but it is believed that the Airstrip male is the father of the two cubs and is tolerant towards them.

On a bit of a concerning note, we later heard that "PAP" (Princess Alice Pans Male Leopard) had arrived at the kill too and fought with the "Airstrip Male" over the carcass and seemingly won the fight. The cubs and the female would have scattered to get away and at the time of our departure only one of the cubs had been seen again with the female which might suggest that "PAP" could have killed the other cub, but we hope to hear news that both cubs are back with the female Leopard.

Our final highlight was spending some quality time in a perfect position opposite 9 Cape Hunting Dog puppies who proceeded to run up and down in front of us playing like puppies do. This pack is now mobile so to find them is extremely difficult. We were very fortunate to have seen this once in a lifetime sighting..

Thanks very much to Jonno our Ranger for looking after us and to all the Mala Mala staff.

Thank you also to Erik, David and Bridget who joined us on this safari, we certainly did have some amazing sightings that not many people get to see, it was a pleasure having you on the trip..

Here are some photos - best regards

Stu


Lioness with subadult Male - Big Cat Reserve

Bagheera the female Leopard - Big Cat Reserve

A sub adult male Lion with the Giraffe Kill - - Big Cat Reserve

The King Cheetah lying next to Hunters - Big Cat Reserve

Lion pride feeding on the giraffe - Big Cat Reserve

Hunters grooming himself, the "dew claw" is clearly visible - Big Cat Reserve

Malutka, Juba and Becky, the three elephants at the Big Cat Reserve

One of the young female Leopards at night - Big Cat Reserve

A Porcupine arrives - Big Cat Reserve

Male Impala alert after spotting a Lion close by - Kruger National Park

The young male lion we found on our first afternoon - Kruger National Park

A very cooperative Common Duiker - Kruger National Park

The Cape Buffalo at Girivana waterhole - Kruger National Park

Lilac Breasted Roller - Kruger National Park

Herd of elephants at Nsemani Dam - Kruger National Park

The two Cheetah brothers we saw on our final morning - Kruger National Park

A Lioness and a cub of the Marthli Pride - Mala Mala

Three of the cubs of the Marthli Pride - Mala Mala

Siesta time - Mala Mala

The adult Lioness without a tail - Mala Mala

Marthli Lions - Mala Mala

A spotted Hyaena  - Mala Mala

One of the cubs of the "Kekelezi Female Leopard"  - Mala Mala

Night drive at Mala Mala

Red Billed Oxpecker - Mala Mala

Barred Owlet - Mala Mala

Male Greater Kudu - Mala Mala

Buffalo calf with oxpecker - Mala Mala

Elephant herd - Mala Mala

"Tree House Male Leopard"  - Mala Mala

Tree house male stalking Impala  - Mala Mala

Tree house Male Leopard at night  - Mala Mala

Tree house male Leopard - Mala Mala

Tree House Male Leopard  - Mala Mala

Kekelezi female Leopard and one of her cubs - Mala Mala

"Airstrip Male Leopard" leaps with the remains of the Impala Kill as the cub watches - Mala Mala

Leopard cub feeding on the leg of an Impala - Mala Mala

Spotted Hyaena yawning - Mala Mala

Cape Hunting Dog puppies  - Mala Mala

Adult Cape Hunting Dog with a damaged eye - Mala Mala

Cape Hunting Dog Puppy - Mala Mala

Cape Hunting Dog adult - Mala Mala

6 comments:

  1. Love getting to do the trip all over again looking at the locations and photos, great shots as always Stu!!
    The Mala Mala cats and dogs shine....
    Cheers Becky

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  2. Love the night drive photo Stu, what were your settings and what do you recommend for starting out in a similar situation? Thanks

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    1. Hi Becky :) glad you liked the shots, the night drive photo was taken at 1/80 sec 2.8 ISO 3200 in manual mode, made into black and white with Nik Silver FX pro plugin for photoshop.

      i love the 2.8 lens (70-200mm) for night photography, it is good at focusing in such low light and the 3200 iso is very useable out of the Canon 5Dmk3 body.

      I took an exposure reading of the spotlight light and stayed with the exposure. the settings would change of you were closer or further away from the subject, I hope that helps :) all the best

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  3. Stu: As always a great trip with you. We had a lot of fun, good company, lovely animals and wonderful bush. Many many thanks. Bridget.

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    1. Hi Bridget !! thanks so much to you and David, it was a wonderful trip !

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  4. Thanks for the info on the night shots..what about the one in color with the trees and jeep on the ridge? Cheers Becky

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