In my guiding career I have spent a lot of time in Sabi Sands area situated on the border of the Kruger National Park. Mala Mala is the biggest private concession in the area which also borders the Kruger National Park but of course because of traversing agreements we could only explore a small portion of the property in the south of the reserve. I have always heard amazing stories coming out of the Mala Mala area, especially in the north, and hoped that one day I would no longer look into the property from the outside but rather explore it with camera in hand to see what all the fuss was about. Well, recently I was granted my wish as I was asked to guide an 8 night photographic safari in Mala Mala and the dream very much became a reality and immense excitement followed. I noticed that I was actually a little too excited when I caught myself looking for leopards out of the aeroplanes window as we made our descent into Skukuza, the airport in the Kruger National Park, where we were to be fetched.
We were to spend 4 nights at Main Camp and 4 nights in Rattrays Camp so you can imagine why my head was buzzing with excitement as we were greeted at Main Camp by friendly staff with big smiles. Being the 'die hard' photographers that we are, we rushed off to the rooms did our check ins and headed straight for the main area again to begin our afternoon drive. It was one of those wonderfully warm winters afternoon as we drove through the Sands river for the very first time on the trip. Soon after this we spotted a lioness sleeping in the reeds on the bank of the river. I loved sitting with this lioness because it gave us all a moment to gather our thoughts, catch our breathe and just take in our surroundings. It was a wonderfully relaxing moment and in hind sight it was the calm before the storm as we had no idea of the sightings that were to come over the next 8 days.
Due to the heat there didn't seem to be a lot of movement with the animals but this didn't phase us as we simply enjoyed the sights and sounds. I do however think that we were all somewhat secretly hoping that around any one of these our first leopard would appear. We knew that the cooler temperatures towards sunset would be more inviting for the cats to move around in after all our main focus for the 8 days was simply to photograph as many cats as we could. And not too long before sunset our ranger Gareth let us know that there was a leopard cub close by in a dry river bed. Music to our ears! however as the sun set the youngster was soon joined by mum who had been out hunting and in the dark of the night the two cats jumped up onto a granite boulder and set us up for one of my most memorable sightings. A photographers dream as seen in the slider gallery to the right. Not only that but a pride of lion started to walk towards the leopard (in the pic on the right you can see mum looking at the lions with concern and even started to stand up to run away) and as though on cue a herd of elephant arrived to feed behind us. We were surrounded by lions, leopards and elephants! What an incredible moment it was. The lions turned out of the river bed and left for their hunt leaving mum and cub uninterrupted on their rock. We all agreed that everything we saw ion the 8 days to come would simply be a bonus. But, this was just the beginning...
I could go on for pages and days on what we experienced and what we saw but honestly speaking it would be too much. To put it into numbers we had 25 leopard sightings and 19 lion sightings in just 8 days. I have personally never had this amount of consecutive sightings and certainly not of this quantity and I am certain that this was a special 8 days. It was more the quality of the sightings that really impressed us. We saw leopard hunting, climbing, runaway from lion and hyena and so much more. We saw lions eating roaring and of course the beautiful little lion cubs playing in the dry river bed. We have so many fond memories including the day we arrived at Rattrays camp to discover that we had to use a golf cart, yes a golf cart, to get to and from our rooms as there was a leopard denning at room 1. It was endless amazement and beauty and we felt completely immersed in the wild and in the Mala Mala story. It has certainly stolen my heart as a photographer and nature lover and I simply cannot wait to return! I tried to sum up as best I can the amazing journey in a video below as well as some stills that simply scratch the surface of being there in person but I hope you find some inspiration and perhaps a new travel destination? Hope to see you in the bush soon.
Sabi Sabi Wildlife Photography Seminar
This ever popular wildlife photography seminar is designed for anyone who loves wildlife, safari and photography. Over the duration of the seminar, the aim is to cover all facets of wildlife photography to establish a deeper connection not only with your photographic ability but with wildlife and nature as a whole. The seminar has been created in such a way, that each individual will receive equal personal attention throughout the safari by having three Wild Eye Guides on site for the safari, allowing for ample opportunity to learn from and be inspired by the experts.