Ben Cranke shares an awesome day at Elephant Plains
Filled with the memories of our lion encounters last evening, ...
... we left the Lodge early and headed out intent on enjoying the peace and beauty of an African dawn.
We were following leopard tracks when we heard of an impala kill in a tree, and immediately headed there.
A large impala was indeed clearly visible in a tree, with a large leopard in attendance, who was concentrating fiercely on his meal and ignoring what was at the base of the tree.
What was at the base of the tree was an amorous female leopard, concentrating fiercely on the male leopard. She padded around the tree, looked up hopefully from time to time, then she rolled on the ground seductively, watching the male all the while. She flirted and flirted as he continued to ignore her.
She approached the tree again, this time intending to lure the object of her affection closer. But the uncooperative male simply growled and hissed at her, and then chased her away.
We captured more and more wonderful images as she sauntered across the grassy area, climbed up and down neighbouring trees, and tried to be as alluring as possible. When the male leaped to the ground, she continued her show, and walked hopefully after him.
This unrequited behaviour continued until it was time for us to return to the Lodge.
As you can imagine, we headed straight back to the scene for the afternoon drive.
The scene was much as we had left it.
The male was in the tree with his kill, and the female was still circling the tree, rolling around some more, and occasionally stretching up the tree, only to be met, by the fiercely hissing, snarling and growling face of her intended.
As the evening progressed we captured some wonderful silhouettes of the male patrolling the branches of the tree, with the colourful orange - pink sky behind him.
Suddenly, a lone hyena appeared.
He proceeded to circle the tree, intent on getting any scraps that would fall from the kill above. The male leopard ignored the hyena, concentrating only on his meal. And the female leopard ignored the hyena, focussing all her seductive attention only on the male.
This wonderful trio provided excellent photographic material for us, and we made the best of the opportunities in the peace and quiet of a magnificent evening.
Suddenly the peace was shattered as an impala hurtled through through the clearing, almost stumbling right over the female leopard, with two wild dogs in close pursuit.
Silence returned for a few seconds ...
Moments later we heard a huge commotion about 50 meters away. The impala had been caught, and a fight broke out between the wild dogs who had caught the impala, and hyena who wanted to steal it.
The fracas was at its height when we heard crashing through the bush and suddenly a hyena hurtled straight toward us from the din, closely pursued by another two wild dogs, they all almost fell over the female leopard (the second close encounter in minutes!) and then disappeared noisily into the bush.
Whew! What an amazing experience!
Peace returned again to the area, and we captured night time spot images of the male leopard strutting along the branches of his tree in the dark.
Back at camp, everyone is still wide-eyed at the incredible sights they experienced and captured, and we are all really keen to return to the area early tomorrow ...