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Cats' life: Sabi Sand, Timbavati, Chobe, Okavango


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Day 9. PM.


In the evening Derek told that our plan was to find a leopard, then to find lions, and then to find elephants. We all laughed as no leopard had been seen for a few days.


Five minutes after we left lodge we stopped for one of kingfishers and while I was getting my binocular out of the bag we heard a kudu alarm call so Derek told “Hold better, we are going to check what is going on there”. After this we pretended that we were participating Paris–Dakar Rally. But we did not go too far: after couple turns we saw a leopard just near the road. Her name is Tekwane:






She was kind enough to pose for us and to stay with us for some time and then she continued through the bush




There also was a hyena right behind a leopard. The guide told that the hyena was waiting for the leopard to hunt, but she did not want the leopard to know about it so every time when Tekwane turned back to check, the hyena was pretending that she was just busy with her own staff.




After leopard left us, we went to lions. On our way we saw some some zebra foals:




This time we found lions not from Birmingham pride but from another small pride. One of the lionesses was limping and one of lion cubs had scratches so Derek told that lionesses probably fought with male lions for cubs.


One of cubs




Here you can see a wound on the lioness shoulder




Lions can be very tender









More cubs






After saying hello to each other lionesses decided to hunt. One of them went inside bushes and the second was stalking in front of us






But it was very hard to hunt with kittens :). Cubs did not want to be serious and they were running and playing and in 40-60 seconds we could here the alarm call from impalas.


So lions turned around and went back to the sand river bed.










After lions we went to check a hyena den, but nobody was there. Although we saw another hyena not far from the den






And a jackal was also there



We also found elephants when it was absolutely dark so at the end Derek was right not only about list of animals but even about the order of sightings :)

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What a fantastic series of sightings. I really like the rhino moving the lioins along.

And the beautiful leopard, lots of lion interactions, and the hyena following the lion. Exciting stuff!

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what an amazing safari you have had @@bettel

It sets the bar VERY high for your next one :D

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@@TonyQ, @@Soukous, @@PT123, thank you!


Day 10.


It was the last morning in Ngala. The game drive was pretty memorable but no pictures as it was raining heavily. We started the game drive with watching two lion brothers trying to hunt. To be more precise, one of them was very serious about hunting and was stalking antelopes while another brother was trying to do all his best not to go into wet bushes so he was hunting on a road. No surprise that when the first lion started to chase antelopes in the direction where he expected his brother to be there was nobody there.


But the most memorable part of safari drive was when we got stuck on Timbavati river bed (thanks God, it was dry). Our engine just stopped working and there was nobody on the radio as well. So for 5 minutes we were sitting there being soaking wet and trying to contact the camp with no luck. I even started to think that our driving safari was going to turn into walking safari. Honestly, I was almost looking forward to it, it would have been such a great adventure! But at the end our call was answered. The camp was asking if we just needed a car to get back to camp or we wanted to continue with safari. I was pretty sure that the ranger and the trekker wanted to get back to the camp, but I wanted to continue. The rain was pretty warm (especially comparing to -30C in Canada) and I did not see any reason to go back :). I would always choose wet bush over dry tent.


According to Murphy’s law all animals were doing everything they could to put themselves in the best position for pictures: giraffes were standing in the middle of the road, lions were playing, kudus were standing nicely on open areas, hyenas were browsing around… I was biting my elbows :)


By the way, when we got back to the camp my camera was the only dry piece of all my belongings and clothes. And I was the last tourist to get back to the camp. Everybody else returned at least one hour earlier.


After the game drive I was transferred to Johannesburg so that the next day I could fly to Victoria Falls.


Day 11.


This day was also pretty quiet. I only did a boat cruise on Zambezi river.


The main sighting was an elephant crossing the river.











Edited by bettel
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Enjoying your trip report very much. Love every picture of the lions. One can never have too many pictures of lions.

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Well done for braving the rain!

I really like the photo of the eleephant crossong the river - with just the trunk sticking up above the water

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that was a beautiful leopard! and ditto to the last note - wat a good shot of the ele trunk in the river too.

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Enjoying your trip report very much. Love every picture of the lions. One can never have too many pictures of lions.


I can sign under this this :), but I would extend: one can never have too many pictures of cats :)


@@TonyQ and @@Kitsafari, thank you!




Day 12.


In the morning I went to Victoria Falls. They were pretty dry and I was still wet after an hour or so. I can hardly imagine these waterfalls after the rainy season:














As I was already missing animals, I signed for the night game drive in the evening. I did not expect a lot but it turned to be pretty memorable :).


We started with zebras:






Continued with giraffes:



And then we went to an anti-poaching camp where we met 4 black rhinos (a male, a female and a calf, a single female) . Rhinos come here every evening to drink water and to eat some pellets. People use this opportunity to check all animals and to make sure that they are healthy. A male rhino was in pretty romantic mood and he tried to flirt with a single female. She was strongly against the idea. Couple times she just used her voice to explain it, but after she realized that it did not work, she turned and charged the male. Even the high level of testosterone did not preclude the male from understanding that it would be better for him to run as fast as he could. And he ran… straight into our direction. I was thinking that he would not be able to turn, as he was running way too fast, and he definitely was not going to stop (he knew that it would be a bad idea taking into account how angry the female was). So I was guessing how far would I fly if this rhino hit the car but, thanks God, couple meters away from us the male rhino managed to go around and the female just followed him.


Another female rhino and a calf were signalling to people that they wanted some treats






A male rhino decided to walk little bit further from those unpredictable women :).




It was getting dark quickly so we went to watch sunset






The next day I was moving to Chobe.

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Great pictures of the water falls. How wonderful to be able to see the black rhino, enjoyed the story and the pictures.

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Thank you, @@Terry



Day 13.


At 11 am I was picked up at the hotel and approximately an hour and a half later I met my new guide.


He explained that this time of the year there were not too many animals in Chobe but as a compensation the scenery became beautiful.


As usually, impalas were the first to meet visitors




And right after impalas we came across elephants










As soon as we left elephants we met lions :)


Two lionesses were sleeping in the shade. Soon one of them woke up as there was a tortoise nearby, the lioness watched it for couple minutes and then she decided to hunt




It was not quite successful hunt :) and the lioness did not know what to do next




It was hot so she started to think to get back to her sister




So at the end the tortoise just continued its trip :).


Chobe river




Some bushes




And then I saw a kill :). I must say every time when I was asked what I wanted to see, I replied that I wanted too see everything but not a kill. But this one was OK.


We came across a monitor lizard that was digging very actively. It was moving around a log, trying different spots and digging deeper and deeper.




We even decided that it was not a lucky day for the lizard but then suddenly something jumped/ran out. I am saying “something” because we did not have any chance to understand what exactly it was. The monitor immediately caught it and ate:




It was quite surprising but at the end we got to the camp :) although it took us close to 3 hours: not because the trip was long but because we met a lot of animals (this is my favorite reason for being late). I liked a camp a lot. You could actually feel that you are on safari in Africa rather than in 5* hotel.



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The best part of your rhino tracking was the tears! Hopefully you can shed some more in June! That Tugela Gorge hike deserved to be on the best in the world list. Truly stunning, and not just one view or vista, there were so many beautiful parts. It appears you did some hikes alone and some with a guide. How does that work? Is there a sign up for a group hike? How did you get to Drakensberg?

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The camp looks ideal. Always good to see elephants.

I echo your feelings about seeing a kill - and I could have manged this one!

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The best part of your rhino tracking was the tears! Hopefully you can shed some more in June! That Tugela Gorge hike deserved to be on the best in the world list. Truly stunning, and not just one view or vista, there were so many beautiful parts. It appears you did some hikes alone and some with a guide. How does that work? Is there a sign up for a group hike? How did you get to Drakensberg?


I flew to Durban and then there was a car transfer to the lodge (approximately 3 hours).


The lodge has quite a few hikes around and in addition the Royal Natal NP is nearby (20 minutes by car). Everyday lodge organises two hikes for free: one is shorter and one is longer but you also can have a private guide or you can hike on your own. The same for Royal Natal hikes, you can either hire a guide or you can hike on your own. I am EXTREMELY good in getting lost :) so I prefer to have a guide.


@TonyQ, I agree, this kill was very easy to manage :)


Day 14. Morning


We had quite an exciting start of the drive: 5 minutes after we left the camp the guide noticed leopard footprints on the road and it was obvious that this leopard was dragging something. Then we found an impala carcass on the tree nearby, but that was it, unfortunately we did not find the cat. We checked all trees and bushes around with no luck so we decided to check it again later.


We continued with Southern Ground-hornbill (I apologize in advance as I am not a birder and I can name them incorrectly :( )




Then some baboons:




Yellow-billed kite




Cats decided not to appear. But we met impalas with a large kindergarten.







And then some buffaloes




And there were some elephants too. One of the male sub adults was very curious. He came very close (maybe only 2-3 meters away) and started to watch us. Then he decided to show how he could use his trunk picking some grass. It was very funny as he did not seem to be interested in eating but he had such an expression “Look what I can do!”. I was feeling myself little bit unsure as the distance was too short and guide's whispering “Just don’t move” did not add me any confidence so I whispered back that I was not even breathing :).




And then we met a lot of giraffes.




One of them had to heads :)




Giraffes were playing










We ended with Southern Carmine Bee-eaters:



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What a terrific report. I loved it all --your words, your pictures, your attitude. All this on an initial safari...great stuff.



Thank you. I could go back and look at all the pics over and over. Just makes me smile.

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Loved the pictures of the baby impalas. I might have given some thought to bringing one home with me. They are so beautiful and so many of them will not reach adulthood. I also like the story of the tortoise and the lion. Amazing how the tortoise wins in all the stories, even those where the lion thinks he might have one for lunch.


About the giraffes, - I don't think they were playing. As far as I can tell, trying to analyze the horns, it appears to me that you were photographing a male and a female. I think you were observing courting behavior. Any chance at all? Did your guide suggest that as a possibility?


I notice the close up of the elephant shows a couple of holes in one ear. I am wondering if their ears get caught on thorns.


Enjoyed all your trip report and everyone of your pictures. Thank you so much for taking the time to post and share with us.

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@@graceland Thank you!




About the giraffes, - I don't think they were playing. As far as I can tell, trying to analyze the horns, it appears to me that you were photographing a male and a female. I think you were observing courting behavior. Any chance at all? Did your guide suggest that as a possibility?


I am not sure :(. The guide told that they were playing but maybe it was not correct.





Day 14. Afternoon


That day we had a Chobe river cruise. We were warned in advance that it all depended on the weather: if there was a thunderstorm we would go back immediately as it could be dangerous. The boat could flip and everybody would have to go swimming. And only somebody who wanted to commit a suicide would swim in Chobe river as there were too many crocodiles and hippos.


To illustrate the point we immediately found a croc:




And the second one, it had just caught a fish:




After this we saw a lot of hippos (I was thinking about my horse all the time. My horse, I think, has the same body type :) ). I wanted to have a classical shot of a yawning hippo. I even told our guide that I would not leave a boat without this shot so both the guide and the second guest were trying to find a yawning hippo for me. Every time they saw one, they were trying to get my attention “Here it is! Faster!”. I was pretty slow :wacko: . But statistics worked well and at the end I made my shot:




The hippo was yawning just in front of us, so the guide had to stop a boat and then to go around this spot just in case.


One of the special Chobe features is that hippos go outside of the water during the day




And then we saw swimming elephants:




But unfortunately we could not come closer or stay with them as the wind became extremely strong and the thunderstorm was coming so we had to turn back quickly.

When we went back to Chobe park it was raining lightly so we continued with the drive:












The drive was pretty quiet; we saw only lions that were very far from the road. It started to get dark and we were on our way back to the camp when we heard a baboon barking. We went to check if there was a cat but everything seemed very peaceful. All other baboons were busy with eating/grooming and it was only one male baboon that was complaining about something. He was barking and barking and barking but we could not see anything. We went to check the direction he was looking but as we were driving there was nothing. And at the end the guide and the second guest stopped paying attention to bushes. But I was stubborn and I continued to check everything and I was also praying “Please let us meet a leopard, please, please, please”. And then I saw something so shouted loudly “Stop! There is a leopard!” but it happened too fast my brains did not actually have chance to operate the information so I was not sure if I was right. But I was! When the car backed we could see a beautiful female leopard.


She was not shy at all. She walked closer to us, found a dead tree and climbed it to check if there were some antelopes around. And then she posed for us nicely. There were no other cars around as everybody already left the park.
















What a beautiful end of the game drive!

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What a beautiful portrait of the leopard wrapped in the weathered wood! That is a cute little mongoose peeking out of his hole also.

And lucky you for the hippo yawning pictures. I was surprised how little time those yawns consumed - so you did well.

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Amazing pics. You could even make them much better by sharpening them up while downsizing them, and with the "autocontrast" function in Photohop.

Some are book material!

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enchanting leopard photos @@bettel

was @@Jochen said, with a bit of time spent in Photoshop or Lightroom you could really make them stunning

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Thank you @@Terry


@@Jochen and @@Soukous I was thinking about it. I actually installed Lightroom on my computer and I played with it little bit, but not enough to start to do something with photos [sigh]. But I have a goal to spend some time on it, to complete a course and to practice, practice, practice :). I have already booked a South Africa trip for May and I want my pictures to be better than they were :).


Day 15.


Morning was very quiet. And as there were a lot of lion tracks we had a feeling that lions were running, walking, playing, hunting whole night and in the morning they just hid in bushes so that people didn't disturb them. And not only lions: it looked as if all animals decided to take a day off. The park was empty. Even impalas were not around.


A giraffe:




A jackal:




At the end of the drive we met a group of buffaloes. One of them decorated himself with leaves:




And another one had quite unique horns:




And that was it for the morning.


Another tourist left after the drive and I had the whole camp for myself.


In the afternoon we had a HUGE storm. I was sitting in my tent and enjoying the view of elements. I must say you feel the power of nature much better when you are in a tent than when you are in a solid building :). I was hoping that I was not going to repeat the experience of Ellie from Kansas (The Wizard of the Emerald City). Because of the weather we started a game drive pretty late. Animals continued to hide.


Warthogs are enjoying fresh puddles:




We were going back to camp when we heard (déjà vu :) ) some growling. Guide quickly drove in that direction. He told that it was either baboons or lions on a kill. Bingo! It was a group of lions and right near the road. As additional bonus there were no people around as it was late. Lion cubs were finishing an impala carcass. There were not too much leftovers.


Sorry for pictures it was really dark:




And then lionesses came and quickly ate some bones that cubs left






Short break to have a rest and to play












But it was obviously not enough food for everybody so two lionesses left for hunting while the third one stayed with cubs.


It was getting darker and darker and we could not stay with lions due to park rules.


And these were rainbows at sunset:



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@@bettel, Loved the pictures of the lion cubs. Darling little Kitty Cats!


If you have a PC with Windows, you can use Windows Live Photo Gallery for a lot of editing. I use it when we are traveling to fix a photos to post on FaceBook while we are on the road.


I am really enjoying your pictures and your story telling. You have a nice double rainbow there.

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Love the crocodile with the fish dinner and the leopards were especially wonderful. What a great trip.

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I have been catching up on a few days - and what a few days

So many images I like - the creche of baby impala, and the leopard that you discovered (a beautiful animal) - the mongoose in the hole looking out at you, and then the lions all to yourselves

I have really enjoyed it!

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Any time invested in improving your post processing technique will pay off @@bettel.

There are lots of Lightroom courses and Tutorials out there and you'll be amazed at the transformation of your photos.


One tip - If you do plan to get more interested in playing with your photos then try shooting in RAW format if you are not already doing so. It will give you a lot more control and flexibility.

Edited by Soukous
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