Up at 5:30 this morning and in the vehicle around 6. We decided to take a simple breakfast with us, as my small group of 3 of us didn’t want to eat so early nor come back to camp later on in the morning. We poured our coffees and got settled into our vehicles for the morning’s game drive. The temperature this morning was in the mid 40’sF, so the wildlife early on wasn’t exactly very active at first light. We headed towards the northern part of Mala Mala, where there are some open areas where cheetah like to spend time. Near Clarendon Dam we didn’t locate any cheetah, however we did have a nice sighting of a rhino who was intent on sniffing out another of his own kind. I find rhinos difficult to photograph, as there aren’t many angles that are good to photograph from. Trying to line up the vehicle for a head-on view was our preferred approach, but we mostly ended up with side shots of his head and horn.
Nikon D800, 300mm f/2.8, 1/1250 @ f/4, ISO 400
After our rhino sighting we went towards an area that had a confirmed sighting of one of the adult male lions who had taken down a nyala the evening before, and when we arrived we actually saw a leopard in the vicinity. The young-ish male leopard was curious yet calm, so we sat and watched him for the next couple of hours. He sat behind a log and didn’t give us a good angle for quite some time, but I enjoyed working with blurred grass in the foreground to try and create a dreamy look to the scene. Eventually he sat up and looked at a flying bird overhead, and that probably yielded the best view of him. At one point he looked into the bushes and noticed the male lion sitting there, which was only about 40 meters away. The leopard inched forward over the next 10 minutes to see what the lion would do, and you can suspect what happened next. The lion burst out of the bush and chased the young male leopard away. I couldn’t help but laugh at how young cats tend to take bigger risks than when they are older.
Nikon D800, 300mm f/2.8, 1/2500 @ f/2.8, ISO 500
This afternoon we decided to drive back to the wild dog den, and when we arrived we had 4 adults lying in front of the entrance. The view wasn’t the greatest, so after a short while we moved out for somebody else to come and take a look. As we were leaving we drove a road towards the Sand River and intercepted the same dogs as they were heading out for their evening hunt. The light was superb, and watching the now 6 dogs trot towards the river was an invigorating exercise. The dogs made it to the water and crossed over as the sun was fading. What a huge honor to be in the presence of one of the most endangered predators in Africa. The last research I have read has indicated there are around 4,000 wild dogs left in the wild.
Wild Dogs (Lycaon Pictus) Heading Out For A Evening Hunt
Nikon D4, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 1/1600 @ f/5, ISO 1600
African Wild Dog (Lycaon Pictus) In The Late Afternoon Light
Nikon D800, 300mm f/2.8 VRII, 1/1000 @ f/3.2, ISO 800