South African Nature at its Absolute Best

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Windy conditions in the African wild can make leopards go quiet for a few days. The wind puts the herbivores on the alert as sounds and smells get confused, whilst waving grass and bushes makes spotting predators difficult. The leopards respond by keeping largely to cover.  Southern African at its best.

Dew drops sparkle one morning on a sickle-bush spine. Macro photography ideally needs a tripod, but i was hand-held this morning, resulting in an image not as sharp as I would have liked, but the dew was too beautiful not to try and photograph.

Above:  Dew drops sparkle one morning on a sickle-bush spine. f2.8, 1/2500, ISO 2500

The dark-maned Majingilane on the prowl. His breath fogging up in the cool morning air, he was on the scent of a female, whose tracks headed west into the Sand River.

The dark-maned Majingilane on the prowl. His breath fogging up in the cool morning air, he was on the scent of a female, who’s tracks headed west into the Sand River. f2.8, 1/6400, ISO 1000

The Maxabene 3:3 young male leopard (now renamed the Makhotini male) feasts off an impala in the deep south. A higher number of hyenas in the area pressurises leopards to hoist their kills, while the reduced numbers in the central areas due to the Majingilane onslaught has meant that leopardds can get away with keeping their kills on the ground for longer.

The Maxabene 3:3 young male leopard (now renamed the Makhotini male) feasts off an impala in the deep south. A higher number of hyenas in the area pressurizes leopards to hoist their kills, while the reduced numbers in the central areas due to the Majingilane onslaught has meant that leopards can get away with keeping their kills on the ground for longer. f5, 1/500, ISO 1250.

Two impala rams lock horns in a particularly violent contest, after the most intense time of the rut has already past.

Two impala rams lock horns in a particularly violent contest, after the most intense time of the rut has already past. f5, 1/4000, ISO 640

Crested francolins joust in the morning light, most likely vying for the attentions of a female.

Crested francolins joust in the morning light, most likely vying for the attentions of a female. f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 640

A serious set of tusks makes one realise why predators will think twice about taking on a large male warthog such as this one. The lower tusks, combined with a very dense lower jawbone and clearly visible here, are the seriously dangerous ones.

A serious set of tusks makes one realise why predators will think twice about taking on a large male warthog such as this one. The lower tusks, combined with a very dense lower jawbone and clearly visible here, are the seriously dangerous ones. f3.5, 1/500, ISO 320

Way down south, on the fringes of the Majingilane's territory, the hyena population feels far more secure, and inquisitive youngsters like this one can gambol about after dark without as much fear of falling victim to the big male lions.

The Mashaba female early one morning moves across Fluffies clearing with the rising sun in the background. Sightings like this are truly special as leopards tend to favour dense vegetation and cover, so seeing them in the open like this is a rare privilege

The Mashaba female early one morning moves across Fluffies clearing with the rising sun in the background. Sightings like this are truly special as leopards tend to favour dense vegetation and cover, so seeing them in the open like this is a rare privilege. f4, 1/500, ISO 1600

The cub of the Mashaba female leopard stares up at a knobthorn tree. As her mother was fast disappearing into a nearby bushwillow thicket, she decided against a morning climb, and trotted off after her.

The cub of the Mashaba female leopard stares up at a knobthorn tree. As her mother was fast disappearing into a nearby bushwillow thicket, she decided against a morning climb, and trotted off after her. f3.5, 1/800, ISO 800

Dwarf mongooses change their sleeping place almost every night. They move from dead logs to termite mounds and back again, but this was the first time I had seen any climbing a tree. At least 10 individuals scaled this Tamboti tree to squeeze into what appeared to be only a very small hole, visible just above the top mongoose.

Dwarf mongooses change their sleeping place almost every night. They move from dead logs to termite mounds and back again, but this was the first time I had seen any climbing a tree. At least 10 individuals scaled this Tamboti tree to squeeze into what appeared to be only a very small hole, visible just above the top mongoose. f4, 1/500, ISO 1000

An enormous water monitor tastes the air with his tongue. The flicking in and out of some lizard and snake species is actually their way of smelling, collecting tiny particles from the air and then analyzing them with a special organ in their palate into which they insert their tongue tips.

An enormous water monitor tastes the air with his tongue. The flicking in and out of some lizard and snake species is actually their way of smelling, collecting tiny particles from the air and then analyzing them with a special organ in their palate into which they insert their tongue tips. f5, 1/1000, ISO 1000

Some red-billed oxpeckers take a bath. It is often the micro dramas that offer the most valuable game-viewing experience. a gang of 10 or so buffalo bulls was standing idly round this pan, not doing anything in particular, and it was the oxpeckers that were by far the most fun to watch.

Some red-billed oxpeckers take a bath. It is often the micro dramas that offer the most valuable game-viewing experience. a gang of 10 or so buffalo bulls was standing idly round this pan, not doing anything in particular, and it was the oxpeckers that were by far the most fun to watch. f10, 1/200, ISO 160

Processionary caterpillars. They have been emerging in ever-increasing numbers over the past couple of weeks, and as the amazing lines that they form can from a distance look just like sticks lying across the road, one has to keep a sharp eye out to avoid squashing one or two.

Processionary caterpillars. They have been emerging in ever-increasing numbers over the past couple of weeks, and as the amazing lines that they form can from a distance look just like sticks lying across the road, one has to keep a sharp eye out to avoid squashing one or two. f6.3, 1/125, ISO 500

My absolute favourite bird, the diminutive Scops owl. This beatiful little specimen was perched low down in a tamboti tree near Finfoot crossing and was quite happy with us having a view of him from scarcely 3m away.

My absolute favourite bird, the diminutive Scops owl. This beatiful little specimen was perched low down in a tamboti tree near Finfoot crossing and was quite happy with us having a view of him from scarcely 3m away. f2.8, 1/400, ISO 800

Photographed by James Tyrrell

Rich Laburn
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.
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