Monday, 20 February 2012

The cats come out to play at Mashatu

We knew the rest of our stay at Mashatu would find it difficult to live up to the first mornings drive, but it did a very good job of keeping us entertained none the less! Each morning we would set out about 15 minutes before the sun rose, painting the beautiful landscape in gold and red. Each afternoon, after drinks and snacks we would go on a slightly less productive drive, stopping for sundowners, followed by an evening of dodging the plethora of bugs which seemed to aim for mouths and noses. I always find morning drives the most exciting, as you wake filled with the expectation of a new day, and with no idea what could have happened during the night. As the vehicle turns each corner, I get a little jolt of excitement, anticipating something interesting to be just ahead. And sometimes it is.

Hyena in the Devil Thorns

The second morning got off to quite a slow start, with not much about. We went to the edge of the concession looking for lions, but finding none we stopped to have some coffee and a leg stretch. After coffee, it often feels as though the best part of the drive is over, but in this case it was just beginning.

Shortly after coffee our guide found us the diminutive Pearl Spotted owlet sitting in a huge Mashatu tree. I was almost giddy with excitement, as this was only my second opportunity to photograph one, the first having resulted in zero images and quite a sulky face. I was quick this time, and managed quite volley of shots before the bird flew into a less desirable position. Not my best, but certainly my first, images of my favourite African owl.

We drove on, with me now feeling like the drive had been mightily successful when we came to a sudden stop at another large Mashatu tree. There were a couple of bones beneath it, but they were old and whitened by the sun. Around the opposite side were a few fresh spindly impala lamb legs, but without any meat on them, and therefore unlikely to still have the leopard that had killed them in attendance. Then, after another lap of the tree Moolman spotted them- not just one, but two leopards lounging high in the canopy, quite relaxed and well camouflaged and out of view.

I LOVE the eyes of leopards

 It then became a game of reverse, go forward, reverse as I tried to find an angle that allowed a relatively clear shot.

One of the leopards, a youngster, got up and began harassing the other, looking for attention. She was clearly bored, and proceeded to explore the whole tree, making for some very entertaining viewing.

 I had seen these leopard half a year ago when I had been on a photographic safari in Mashatu, and how they had grown! We spent a good 40 minutes watching them, until they eventually exited the tree and disappeared across the plain.

One of the cubs when she was small

The mother posing in the crook of a Mashatu Tree

My favourite image from the morning

Now, it had been a very successful morning, and was time to head back for some breakfast. We did try to, but about a kilometer away spotted yet another leopard lounging in a dry riverbed! This leopard began to hunt, unsuccessfully, until it walked under a small tree which had ANOTHER leopard in it! This was another of the youngsters I had seen before, and seemed to have been sharing a meal with the young male we had just seen. We followed as they walked along the bank, right up until the point they walked into a lioness and had to make a hasty retreat up another tree. Yes, I do realise this sounds a bit fictional, but its all real. The lioness had an impala kill which it seemed she had stolen from the leopards the previous night.

Surprisingly, there was nothing else to see on our way back...

No comments:

Post a Comment