Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

November 8, 2010

The first leopard!

Filed under: 2010,November — Hennie van Heerden @ 9:06 am

 If you think vacation is a time where you can relax, sleep in and don’t live by the clock; don’t go on a safari! Every morning in Botswana, we started at 5.00AM. Fortunately you don’t have to spend a lot of time on make-up or hairdo as the animals will not appreciate your efforts anyhow. Besides that, in the open vehicles the wind will quickly turn your carefully crafted hairdo into ‘coup safari’ 🙂

At Mashatu, when the first rays of sunlight touch the earth, it is really lovely to have your first cup of coffee on the deck and watch the world come alive all around you. Although our idea of daylight being the start of the day is deceiving in the bush. For many animals daylight means the end of their ‘day’. The lions go to sleep in the tall grass and the leopards finish their meal high up in a tree. Starting at 5 will reveal the activities that went on during the previous night.

One of the nicest things is hearing the birds wake up. With the first glimmer of light, the Babblers, Kingfishers, Coockals and a thousand more start their day with a song, combined with the frogs and the cicades. I really cherish that early morning concert.

The river that runs through Mashatu had almost completely dried up, save for some permanent pools in the sandy riverbed. Those pools provide a home for lizards, frogs and many birds so soon after we set off, we found ourselves flat on our belly to shoot the doves and plovers that fouraged there. I wasn’t paying much attention to the water as I was so busy following the hyperactive three banded plovers around that I forgot. Until ranger Elvis reminded me of the odd croc that might actually live in that water.. Every time I’m on safari there is this moment that you (again) realize that this is not the safe environment of the village you are used to live in, but this is wild country, where the animals rule..

To my great surprise, shortly after we left that morning, I already saw my very first leopard of this trip. Surprise because although I had anticipated to see this fantastic animal in Mala Mala, a reserve which is well known for its many sightings of leopards, I didn’t really expect this in Mashatu. But there she was, a beautiful female, high up in one of the glorious Mashatu trees! Soon she went down and lay down on a high slope, allowing me one after the other eye-level shot. Great!!

Birds are plentiful at Mashatu. My favorite of them all, the Lilac Breasted Roller was there in abundance, and after driving Hans totally crazy on previous trip by wanting to stop at every single one of them (and they are a plague according to Hans) he threatened to bring a shotgun on the next trip. But.. Hans not being around I took my chance to shoot them some more. In the end I managed to also turn Elvis and Morgan into passionate Roller-haters 🙂

Some of the many shots I took this day:

The Francolin to the left got the scare of his life when I had crawled up to him and he heard the first blast of the shutter 🙂
The second shot was taken at sunset, when a huge flock of Red Billed Quilias took off, only to land again 3 meters further.
The Guinee Fowl in the third shot are the funniest birds alive. They always make me think of grand old ladies with their gowns too large and too much make-up on their faces 🙂
And just before we headed home, when the sun had already set, we found this magificent lioness, posing absolutely regal, preparing for the hunt in the nearby Marsh lands.
Elvis, overlooking the river.
The y0ung male leopard we found just before sunset.
And I swear that the dragonfly male, who used the tail of the female to give him some shade during his hard work, had a grin on his face! 🙂


 And that evening, during dinner, the first rains of the season started to hammer down on the dry lands of Mashatu…



  1. Wauwwwwww Hennie, wat een mooie plaatjes weer, die bijeneter in aktie……..geweldig!!
    Nog veel plezier en groetjes van de Rademakers.

    Comment by Anne Rademaker — December 6, 2010 @ 6:00 pm | Reply

  2. wat een heerlijk verhaal….je zou ook boeken kunnen gaan uitgeven….heerlijke foto’s erbij als illustraties uiteraard die van jezelf…..prachtig en mooi….

    Comment by nldazuu — December 13, 2010 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

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