Mapoza male Lion

Mapoza is a stunning lion and the dominant male of a pride in the Thornybush Game Reserve. His right eye is cloudy because of either a birth defect – a congenital glaucoma – or an injury early in his life. Whatever the cause, it hasn’t hindered his success in life!

Of all the photos I took during our trip at KwaMbili Game Lodge, this is my favorite. As a friend said: His right eye is his spirit eye with which he looks into the world of the ancestors. That’s absolutely believable!

Saving rhinos

Rhino populations have been under heavy pressure from poaching. They are poached because some people believe that the horn of a rhino has medicinal qualities, and trade in rhino horn is very lucrative.

In the past years, there has been an effort to dehorn rhinos in several South African national parks and game reserves. A dehorned rhino has no value to poachers, so this is an effective way of protecting them – and the incidences of poaching have dropped significantly as an effect. For the rhino it does not seem to matter much. Fights over dominance can still happen, even without a horn, and may even be safer for the parties involved.

Still, it’s sad that we have to do this to protect a species!

World Leopard Day

Apparently it is world leopard day today! Leopards are such special animals – solitary, secretive, hard to find and absolutely stunningly beautiful. I didn’t nearly see enough leopards on our recent trip to South Africa 🥲 but this one, just waking up, time to get moving, silhoueted against the sunset-sky was really special.


You wouldn’t say so, because buffalo traverse in large herds, but they are actually quite hard to find. After an afternoon speeding from one end of the Thornybush Game Reserve to the other, we finally found this old, angry, solitary male glaring at us after he had to get up from his personal spot on the beach. Hrmph.


One of the highlights of our trip was finding this mother lion with two cubs in a river bed. At this age – maybe three months old – they are still reliant on mother’s milk and too little to engage in the hunt with the rest of the pride, so mother will hide them for long periods to go hunting and come back for feeding and play time.


A leopard dozing in a tree above us. In fact, he was dozing so hard that he lost his balance and needed some claw action to prevent him from falling out of the tree and on top of… well, me. That was a scary moment!

At first sight

It was a long journey from the Netherlands to Tangala Safari Camp in #Thornybush Nature Reserve. We were just in time to catch the departure of the afternoon safari drive – and this was the first picture I took. What a welcome in South Africa!