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STEWART PHOTOGRAPHY – 2015 safari wrap up – TIMBAVATI GAME RESERVE (part 1)

By January 12, 2016 No Comments

Rock Fig Safari Lodge was our home base for all of our visits to Timbavati in 2015 and we would like to take this opportunity of thanking this wonderful camp and all of its superb staff for supplying us comfortable accommodation, outstanding food and stunning service unequalled in this sphere on each of our 12 visits.  Our safaris to this area have always been very special, no doubt assisted by being such a small group of people having exclusive use of the camp.   The combination of this exclusivity and the common bond interest of photography and the bush helped and encouraged us all to form new long lasting friendships and allowed us all to learn new things from each other on each tour. Let us also not forget the game rangers and trackers who take on the responsibility of making a safari and its game drives a success. Martin and Hugo were all instrumental in supplying these sightings and, when coupled with trackers like Isaac and Edwill, stunning photographic opportunities were boundless throughout the year.  Thank you very much each one of you, you are without doubt the best in your own fields and we are so lucky to have you leading and looking after us.

 

“There is a kill up here somewhere”!!!!!

 

Without any doubt the highlight throughout 2015 was the huge number of leopard sightings we were able to experience, (sometimes as many as 16 different sightings on just 6 game drives), plus the stunning quality of each sighting, often allowing us as much as an hour with mother and cubs.  All four female leopards in the area (Ntombi, Rockfig Jnr, Marula and Thombela) all produced two cubs each of varying sexes.  All of the cubs were well looked after by their respective mothers, which meant them all surviving the first few months.  Special mention should go out to Marula who was experiencing her first litter, as she did an outstanding job as a new mother.  It is quite rare for a mother to successfully raise two cubs to the age where they venture away on their own and try their best to create and form their own territory.  These cubs were no exception to that theory, with only Thombela rearing her two young ones to that stage, with all three of the other mothers losing one cub each.  During each of our game drives we experienced first hand the immense dangers that these cubs encounter, from buffalo to hyena, from lion to other leopards, all were witnessed in such encounters.

“Too late now, but I am scared of heights”!!  More acrobatics from a Timbavati leopard.

 

So the end of the year ended with all four mothers doing well and a total of 5 cubs being reared to the sub adult stage of solitude.  Of these 5 remaining cubs, two are females (Thombela and Rockfig Jnr cubs) and the rest are males.  It is ironic that 2015 saw one of Ntombi’s cubs from 3 litters previously (a huge male called Machongwane), appearing back in the area and making a play to be the dominant male.  In fact on one game drive we saw Machongwane and Ntombi’s surviving male cub having a face off with each other over an impala kill, a very nervous and tense sighting!  Probably neither of them realising that they were in fact brothers, not that this sort of information would have made any difference to any confrontation.

 

“Good to see you Mum, do you by chance have anything to eat”?

 

One particular sighting that will remain with me for a long time was during a sundowners break at Impala Dam, our party was enjoying photographing the sunset along with a few thirsty buffalo in attendance, when just 5 meters away we were joined by Rock Fig Jnr’s cub, who looked at us and carried on with her stroll and leaving her scent by rubbing against a nearby tree.  Quite amazing experience, as she couldn’t have cared less that we were right next to her, and it was only when a hyena made its presence known, did she scoot off and up another tree a short distance away.  How many people can boast having been joined at sundowners by a leopard???

 

“Sorry to trouble you guys, but might you have a spare Gin and Tonic please”?