Khwai River Lodge (Okavango): Hunting With a Leopard …
(All images from Villiers’ Computer Screen or Back of Camera)
News from Villiers Steyn:
We had a very exciting drive this morning …
After deciding to start out earlier this morning we left the camp about 15-20 minutes earlier than usual – and that really paid dividends very quickly!
We had hardly left the camp when we bumped into an adult female leopard named Lakgarebe walking down the road. She is not a youngster and has rather tattered ears.
The sun was far from rising when we found her. We followed her and within moments she spotted a herd of about 25 impala.
She immediately went into stalking mode.
This is how a thrilling 2 hour stalking session started. We have photos of her crouching and slinking furtively through the grass and staking out the herd. But these impalas were quite bush smart and they stuck in a wide open spot, and kept well away from the nearby thicket.
Eventually Lakgarebe did a full 360 degree circuit around the herd, looking for the appropriate angle to get closer. But no! She did manage to approach within about 10 meters of the herd when one of the ewes spotted her. At times we were right next to her and felt very much as though we were a part of her hunt. The excitement mounted and mounted and adrenalin flowed!
As soon as the impala let out an enormous warning call the leopard stood up and lifted her tail, thereby saying ‘OK! You have spotted me’.
We all let out a huge breath, having been so much a part of the hunt and as the event had taken so much of our morning drive we just had time for a quick coffee break and a collective winding down before we started a slow drive back to the camp.
On the way we passed a handsome Saddle-billed Stork busily fishing in a small pond and stopped for photographs.
This afternoon we went straight to the Mogotlo area, having heard that a leopard had been sighted there after making a kill in the area. We found the same young male that we saw the previous day. He wasn’t feeding, although his tummy did look quite full.
We followed him for the next two hours as he strolled around, rested, yawned, and ten chased some zebra. However, the tables were turned when the zebra turned on him and chased him instead. Hahahaha! We laughed – it was really amusing. Then a herd of impalas grabbed his attention, and he stalked them for ages.
After that he became ultra brave and tried to stalk an elephant. When he realised that this was a futile exercise he gave up and shortly after he encountered three hyenas and he smartly rand amusingly retired to the safety of the upper branches of a tree.
All in all we spent an absolutely fantastic afternoon with him, experimenting with every type of photography imaginable – flash, high key, front and side lighting, shots in the golden light and then in the darkness.
So today was an incredible leopard day – both leopards hunting, relaxed and wonderful to photograph. I have to pay tribute to the guides here (Johnson and Richard) were amazing, ensuring that we were always in a position for the best possible photographs.
The day ended with a delicious bush braai, with the sky above filled to capacity with stars, and the smells and sounds of the bush all around. The staff sang traditional songs for us – wonderful!
In the morning we would like to track the Wild Dogs that we saw the other day …