Regular safari goers will be well aware of the amount of time and patience that is sometimes needed to capture an image which, for all intensive purposes, has a lifespan of a couple of minutes before disappearing into the mass of content on social media these days.
Fr the vast majority of people, the idea of spending time waiting for something to happen seems very foreign. I still have guests who would far rather head off in search of something else to photograph rather than sitting and waiting for the potential presented by a sighting in hand.
As we headed out on our first afternoon game drive in the Timbavati on Sunday during a Private Guided safari, we were less than 15 minutes into the drive when our tracker spotted a male leopard up a Marula tree. The male , clearly skittish and unsettled, dashed down and the tree and ran off into the distance before we cold even get a good look at him. We passed beneath the branch where he had carefully hoisted and secured his kill.
A relatively scarce and seldom seen creature of the night, seeing this alone was something quite special.
We poked our nose around to see if the male had perhaps retreated to the cover provided by one of the Weeping Wattle or Bush-willow thickets but he was nowhere to be found.
Male leopards are often far more nervous around vehicles than their smaller female counterparts and this male was clearly not comfortable in broad daylight.
We continued on our drive and returned to the site around 16:55 with the plan to sit and wait quietly and see whether the twilight hours would offer some sort of comfort to the leopards nervous disposition.
We prepared ourselves and worked through the best options in terms of composition, placed the vehicle in the ideal position (a fair distance away from the tree in an effort to give the leopard more space) and fired off a couple of test shots to confirm we had the correct settings.
We were all set!
The light changed as time wore on and we continued to adjust camera settings, making sure we would be prepared for the arrival of the male leopard.
The wind was blowing, clouds rolled in and rain fell for a couple of minutes but we remained defiant in our wait for his return.
It was now getting really dark and we switched to manual settings and prepared ourselves for photographing with the aid of a spotlight.
We sat patiently, listening intently for any sounds that may alert us to the fat that the male was making his return.
A snap of a twig and the spotlight went on.
Not even 5 minutes later and without a sound at all, the fork of the tree that we had been staring at for an hour and 20 minutes seemed to have an unusual shape to it. I asked the tracker to shine the spotlight and sure enough, the male had returned.
He had more than likely been sitting in the thickets behind the Marula tree waiting patiently for us to give up our quest. Time got the better of him and he simply could not resist the sustenance proved by the rich meat in the Aardvark’s tail and decided to reveal himself.
I knew he would not stay for long and encourage my guest to prepare for him to grab the carcass and make his descent.
An hour and half after returning to the scene and after just 3 minutes of being able to photograph the male, the sighting was finished.
The leopard made of with his prize possession and we were left with an incredible sense of privilege as we reviewed the images from the evening.
These images will always be a reminder of an experience which runs well beyond was is captured in any one frame.
For me, that is true of all of my images, but these images will always be a reminder of a most memorable afternoon on safari.
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