Well – what a lovely surprise as we woke up this morning. Clear skies and no hint of clouds. We left the Lodge just as the sky started to turn an early grey colour and to our delight we found a young male leopard very close to the Lodge. He is new to the area and therefore still a little skittish. He was very cautious about allowing us too close so we remained at a respectful distance so as not to alarm him. He is a handsome young fellow with a pink nose. Very photographable.
We were still with the young male leopard when we heard that another leopard had been spotted. This time we found a young female lying on a termite mound. She looked lovely in the early light. When she moved from one termite mound to the next – and the next – and the next, we followed, taking photographs of the relaxed young cat all the while.
Almost unbelievably, we found a third leopard. This young female had killed a baby impala moments before our arrival, but she had fled way up into the safety of a dense tree where she was quite obscured by thick foliage. Hyenas circled the base of the tree, gazing upward and hoping that scraps, or even the whole kill would drop. But not many bits and pieces dropped while we were there.
This afternoon our first major stop was to photograph an elephant in a riverbed. Just then a call came through about a male leopard close to the reserve boundary. As we arrived he jumped down from the termite mound where he had been resting and walked directly towards us. He is a large, strong, older cat, and we could see his powerful muscles as he walked close to us before he disappeared into a neighbouring territory.
A Rhino with a three month old calf was next. It was wonderful to see them and we remained with them for a while.
A fifth leopard for the day was next! We found this male close to a dam. We saw hyenas milling around, watching the cat intently and realised that he must have a kill close by. We actually wondered if it was the same young skittish male that we saw early this morning as his behaviour was similar, but we were in a different area of the reserve, so we are unsure whether he travelled this far during the day. We looked around for a kill, but couldn’t see anything like that.
We decided to return to the female leopard with the kill in the tree. On the way there, and still a few kilometres away, we found her out in the open. She was stalking a herd of impala. We stopped, cameras ready. As she crept closer to the impalas hyenas arrived on the scene and chased her into a tree. Thwarted!
By now the sun had set and we needed spotlights to photograph the leopard up in the tree. When she came down from the tree we followed her for about forty-five minutes as she made her way through the bush. As she moved along she hunted anything and everything – mice, frogs, anything small was fair game for her. It was enthralling to watch her in action.
So after a very full day with six leopard sightings (four or five different leopards) we are back at the Lodge, ready to compare our images and to share and recount the events of the day. Hopefully tomorrow will be as productive …