Botswana Overland Safari – Savuti … Wim reports: Five Leopards! Two 1/2 Wild Dog Hunts!
One of the most fantastic days ever in the bush started with a predawn trip to Marabou Pan where we could see a huge buildup of different animals. General game galore – you name it … they were probably there. And the beautiful sunrise over the pan with all that activity was quite spectacular.
When we heard that two leopard cubs may be nearby we decided to check it out. Our luck was in and we found two tiny bundles of leopard fur, not more that 8 weeks old, playing boisterously among some rocks.
Suddenly, not 50 meters behind us we heard a massive commotion. Yelping, crashing bushes, hooves! We swung around to see 16 Wild Dogs chasing 7 giraffe – and two of these were youngsters.
The tumult! The dogs ran next to a small giraffe, yipping excitedly, and leaping up to try and bring down their prey. The adults retaliated by repeatedly kicking out to fend off the dogs and protect their young. Again and again the dogs leaped up and again and again the giraffe adults kicked back. The chaos, noise, dust, crashing bushes seemed to dominate the whole bushveld. We watched until they disappeared into thick bushes in the distance.
Whew! Our pulses were racing, eyes wide as we took a collective deep breath, hardly able to believe what we had just seen. Luckily we remembered to lift or cameras for some incredible shots.
We were just settling back to photograph the leopard cubs again when we heard the familiar yelps again – getting louder and louder – until they were almost right behind us again. This time we could truly not believe our eyes!
The dogs had found an adult leopard and were chasing it directly towards us. The leopard spotted a tree and with one bound it leaped up onto a branch … and only then came the realization – this was a fallen acacia and the highest point was a mere 2 meters from the ground, barely out of the range of those snapping, slavering jaws.
The commotion this time was spine-chilling! The leopard snarled, backing away desperately while the dogs yipped and yelped ever more excitedly. The situation seemed to go on and on – and luckily for the leopard it was just out of the dogs’ reach.
Eventually the dogs exhausted themselves … after the giraffe chase, and now this confrontation, they simply passed out a few meters away from the leopard.
We quickly returned to the Lodge for a very quick bite to eat and to freshen up.
When we returned the leopard had managed to sneak away and the dogs were still sleeping. We remained with the playing cubs until our next interruption. There was one amusing incident when a couple of Francolin came scurrying past the cubs, causing the two to stop their game and stare in amazement and the feathery interlopers.
Suddenly all 16 Wild Dogs leaped up and dashed to a nearby pan, where they started to chase each other and play some game with rules that were difficult to follow.
The interactions between the dogs were amazing to watch. And suddenly they bolted off again – towards the marsh area where they started to hunt. They chased kudu, then more kudu, and tried to single out anything that looked promising.
Suddenly the dogs dashed into the middle of a herd of about 1000 buffalo! For a moment they looked as though they were considering a buffalo meal as they sized up the potential. They were a mere meter away from the buffalo, challenging and really looking as though they might just attack.
But again they suddenly veered away in yet another direction.
We tried to follow, but as we turned a bend in the road, a huge male leopard lay sprawled right across the road. He opened an eye, decided that we were not too interesting, and flopped back to sleep. There was nowhere for us to pass the leopard, and as it was already quite dark, we contented ourselves with photos of the sleeping cat.
We turned around, and after a few spot lit and flash images of the buffalo, we headed back to the Lodge.
Maybe it was all the excitement, the recurrent adrenalin rush, that has ensured that we are all ready for our predinner drinks and a good meal! What a day!
Tomorrow? We would like to check on those little cubs again …
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