A Leopard Up Close …

Ben’s News from Elephant Plains on the Tusk Sabi Sand Photo Tour:

After a short break from the Sabi Sand Reserve we returned to Elephant Plains today in time to welcome the arrival of the incoming guests, enjoy a meal together, and then after our briefing we were ready to start our first game drive.

We had heard that female leopard had been spotted during the morning with a duiker kill in a tree and of course we headed there as soon as we left the Lodge. When we arrived, the kill had been dropped somehow from the tree, and had probably been stolen by hyenas. There was no sign of the kill, the leopard, or whichever animal had taken the kill.

But luckily for us it didn’t take long for us to find another leopard – another female. We spent the remainder of the afternoon, sunset, and early part of the night with her. She was very relaxed around us, and continued with her leopard business as we followed. She was on the move, and went up and down termite mounds, went up a tree for a good look around before she continued on her way, climbing any vantage points like low branched and fallen trees.

One of our vehicles parked on the road and waited for the cat to walk past. She walked up to a tree right next to the vehicle, sniffed the tree, then scent marked it. Then she turned her attention to the vehicle next to her. She sniffed the rear wheel, then looked up in some puzzlement at the creatures that belonged to the vehicle with cameras that clicked nonstop as she looked up at them. Finding the whole scene of of no interest, she turned and continued her way through the bush.

Then the leopard spotted some impala and she immediately went into stalking mode. As soon as she did this we turned off all lights so as not to disturb her hunt. We sat in the darkness, and waited in total silence. We strained our ears to try and work out what was happening but we could here anything unusual. Just a few leaves rustled in a light breeze, and there may have been tiny small animal or bird noises. We waited, barely moving, for about ten minutes, and when we were met by ongoing silence, we quickly switched the lights on again for a quick check. The leopard and the impala had disappeared into the night without a trace.

We returned to the Lodge, delighted that our first drive had been so successful. And naturally we will go in search of the leopard in the morning again …