Inter-specific Interaction – This is rare and refers to interaction between different species, for example, a cheetah chasing down a springbok or a crocodile launching itself out of the water to catch an unsuspecting kudu. It doesn’t have to be a hunt or kill, though. A young elephant bull chasing away a pair of Egyptian geese from a waterhole also counts.
Vocalisation – Most nature lovers will agree that the grunt of a hippo or the classic bushveld call of a fiery-necked nightjar releases the same happy juices that the sight of a black-maned lion does, and therefore I award a point for any sighting that includes animal noises.
Longevity – A pair of cheetahs dashing across the road right in front of you, hot on the heels of a flying impala, easily scores points for Visibility, Proximity, Numbers, Action, Inter-specific Interaction and possibly even Vocalisation if the antelope sounds the alarm while it’s being pursued. But I’m sure you’ll agree, if it’s over in a split second, it leaves you empty and longing for more. So in order to climb the ladder to a perfect ten, the sighting has to last more than ten minutes at least.
Light – This is where the photographer in me starts judging. I’m looking for gorgeous golden light or striking backlight. If it’s flat or harsh, it won’t score a point.
Photographic Opportunities – Finally, I look at how many good photo opportunities I get at the sighting. Take Salayexe and her cub, two of Elephant Plains’ most relaxed leopards, for example: On a couple of our drives in August we were parked right next to them, but because of various factors (poor light, lots of movement and lots of obstructions) we just couldn’t get good photos on those occasions. To score a point, I need some money shots!