The goal in Africa is to always see the big five and this trip we were not to be disappointed. But I have to say seeing this Leopard was the highlight of the sightings for me during our trip. We were in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania and it was getting late in the day. The sun usually sets around 6:30 each evening and we were fast approaching 6 PM. Our guide Gabriel, of Maasai Magic Safaris, received word that a Leopard may be in the area and we started looking for one. About every 500 feet or so, “Gabby” would stop the vehicle and search with his binoculars for the elusive animal. I was getting a bit impatient as we were unable to find it, but such is the way of the jungle. Excitedly, he pointed out, “Over there!!”and we were of to the tree where he was sitting. The vehicle pulled closer and he was maybe 15 feet above our vehicle and observed us with a steady gaze. My two other guests on the tour were so excited and they started click away as we wanted to make sure we were able to get some photos before the sun set and we lost our light.
Soon I put my camera down and just observed him as he stared at me. At that moment I felt some kind of weird connection to him, but it was like he was telling me he knew we weren’t a threat. His paws were huge and I just kept commenting about how beautiful he was to the others. Truly one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen in the wild. Being so close made it that much more special for this encounter. He changed position a few times to get a better look at us and each time he was super focused on what we were doing, but he seemed fine with us being there. Soon the light was fading and we had to move on but the thrill of seeing this Leopard will always be a great memory from my trip. Technical Notes: Above images shot on Nikon D300 ISO 1000 f/5.6 @ 1/40th sec. handheld using a beanbag as a tripod.
One of the next great encounters we had on this trip was the opportunity to see mating lions on three different occasions. On my previous trip I had not had the opportunity to witness lions on their honeymoon, but our timing was perfect this time.
This lion above was sitting by the mound, but close by was a female that was hidden inthe grass when we first arrived.
It wasn’t long before we saw her and had the opportunity to witness our first mating session. Gabriel pointed out to us that lions will mate about every 15-20 minutes up to 40 times per day and just lock clock work we were able to see multiple session in this timeframe.
We watched this pair for over an hour and this photo was taken during their break from each other.
The behavior is pretty predictable. The lion will sleep for awhile, then he’ll roll over and yawn and then mount the female lion. During copulation, he will also bite at her neck and is finished in about seven seconds (Yes I timed it). This will then be repeated over and over on a regular basis. I’m looking forward to seeing their offspring when I go back in November of 2016. With a gestation period of 110 days, the babies will be about 9 months old.
These two lions we saw in the Ngorongoro Crater, one of my favorite places to view animals in the wild. With a large populations of Lions, Zebra’s, Wildebeest, Zebras and even Hyenas, its a great place to be at morning light.
This guy was such a beautiful animal and I didnt realize until after I got home that he seemd to ahve a bit of scaring on the left side of his face. The warm Serengeti winds tossed his mane around as we photographed him.
This lone lion we saw the first morning d uring our stay at the Kati Kati Luxury tented camp. The hot air balloon aligned perfectly in the background to get this fun photo. Last year we saw this same balloon and I keep telling myself that I need to take a balloon ride on my next trip. At $500 USD, it is a bit pricey but think it might be worth the experience.
Our last day in the Serengeti, we came upon this pride of lions who had started their morning with a Wildebeest for their breakfast meal. Many of the young ones seemed more interested in playing vs eating, but they each got their turn.
I get super excited when we see Cheetahs, they are one of the most beautiful animals in Africa. Though I have yet to see one on the run, they are fascinating to watch as they are on the lookout for prey.
This group of four we saw standing on a termite mound and must have watched them for about 45 minutes. They would move from mound to mound, continually looking for hunting opportunities. The video above also has some footage of them as they moved about.
Looking back on this last trip, each day was a magical day where we felt as if the day was created by Walt Disney with the perfect timing of animals and weather. If you’d like to join me in 2016 for a trip, please go to my company website at Shuttertours.com