Words and images by Mike Dexter
Cub, pup, calf, baby, young, tiny, leopard, lion, cheetah, elephant – the words I have used more than any others in keywording my images from the latest C4 Images & Safaris workshop at Mashatu. The big African cats, leopard, lion and cheetah, are not seasonal breeders and thus it is a curious affair that there are currently three 3 month old cheetah cubs, four 6 week old lion cubs and two 10 month old leopard cubs exploring this rugged wilderness.
On our first game drive we spent some time at a hyena den known to be home to a number of tiny pups. We arrived at dusk, just as the clan was stirring for a night of hunting. The pups were out and exhibiting the playful, comical and curious behaviour typical of their kind. It was a real treat to watch and our shutters were firing throughout.
From there were meandered our way through thick riverine vegetation to a 10 month old leopard cub, posing perfectly on the river bank. What a start it was! The rest of the workshop is a blur of excitement and inspiration. We spent hours with a female cheetah and her 3 cubs. We watched them feeding, hunting and playing on several occasions, all in perfect light. On one morning we spent over an hour and a half with the family.
To me the most special moment of the 4 days was when, after waiting at a lion den for 30 minutes, a lioness brought her 4 tiny wobbling cubs into the open, seemingly to show them off. This was only the second time they had been seen and although they weren’t in view for long we all knew how privileged we had been to witness this special moment.
Photographic safaris at Mashatu are always exceptional and these four days were yet another testament to the unique and unrivalled experienced that the reserve reliably provides.