Ranger Gregory Baldwin recently hosted a group of photographers and videographers at MalaMala Game Reserve who were very interested in seeing the big cats we are lucky to see so often. Here is an account of their memorable sightings and some delightful photographs that Gregory captured during their stay.
Sightings of leopard and lion have been in abundance at MalaMala over the past few weeks as most of the game have been attracted to the flowing Sand River during the drier months. I recently took out a group of photographers and videographers that were especially keen to capture some of the big cats of MalaMala. Little did they know they were about to be treated to the wildlife magic!
We had a very busy few days, heading out before sunrise every day and leaving early in the afternoon to spend as much quality time in the bush as possible. On our first drive we spotted the Princess Alice Pans male leopard sleeping in reeds near West Street Bridge. Soon afterwards another ranger found his son, the Newington male, chewing on an old buffalo carcass nearby. As soon as the Newington male walked towards his father it led to some threatening growls from the Princess Alice Pans male. The Newington male knew to head these warnings and slowly skirted around his father, only stopping for a short while before moving off on his evening patrol.
Our next morning started off with the Kikilezi female and her two 10 month old cubs feeding on what little remained of an impala kill. For the cubs this meant fighting over one leg bone and continually stalking and attacking one another. This got a bit much for the mother, who would repeatedly intervene with a controlling nip or swat.
We also visited the Ostrich Koppies female leopard’s den site on a few occasions in the hopes of seeing the boisterous three month old cubs. This is always a gamble as you never know if the leopards will be around or not. Fortunately it paid off and on the second morning, we were able to film the cubs in the early morning light. The two cubs were climbing every bush in sight and going out of their way to knock the other one out of their self-proclaimed jungle gyms. It amazed all of us when even their mother joined in the fun, her weight on one occasion flicking one of the cubs out of the bush all three of them had been playing in!
Similarly the lions who roam MalaMala did not disappoint. We saw the Styx pride on a few occasions, mostly lazing around as these regal cats do – happy and content after having their full of a zebra and kudu kill in quick succession. One evening, however we were rewarded with them greeting one another and starting to get active for their nights escapade. This added with the back drop of the Sand River under moonlight led to some great footage.
On the last morning after following up on alarm calling baboon we were treated to a pack of 17 cape hunting dogs. They were active in the early morning chill and it was difficult to keep up with them running through the dense bush. Based on their turn of speed we were fairly certain they had a quarry in sight and after a few minutes of frantically searching, we eventually caught up to the dogs tearing apart an already dead young impala ram… ‘Bamba stations!’
It was a fantastic few days of game viewing and everybody walked away with full memory cards and memories all about the wildlife!
Enjoy Greg’s images below MalaMala wildlife fans!