Of All the African Tales…..
Of all the African tales, the one about the secretive and elusive nature of the leopard can’t be more spot on (excuse the pun).
With a wonderful family of 4, I set off from Kapama’s Buffalo Camp, an ultimate luxurious tented accommodation experience, for their first game drive of the afternoon.
We set off in a steady rhythm of driving with the expectation that anything and everything will present itself on this fine afternoon. Not long after heading out into the bushveld, we came across three little bee-eater birds, fluttering about, hunting for some flying insects. I decided to stop and give my guests the opportunity to view these interesting birds.
As we were watching the scene up in the trees, my tracker Foster, noticed something a few meters away.
At first, it was difficult to spot but with Foster’s keen eye and patience, he explained to us where we should be looking. When I looked through the thick brush, I could not believe what Foster had spotted.
It turned out to be a female leopard.
She was lying on a large termite mound about 25 meters away. For those brief few moments of bobbing our heads, looking but not seeing anything, we understood exactly how well the rosettes (small irregular shaped spots grouped together in circles ) of the very elusive leopard worked to camouflage this beautiful Big 5 cat.
With the naked eye, she blended right into the dry vegetation but using our binoculars we were awed by her beauty.
She quickly realized that she had been seen and within two minutes got up and disappeared into a dense Zebra-wood thicket. Unable to follow, but still very satisfied with our photographs, we continued on in search of more animals.
Earlier in the afternoon, I received word that a warthog carcass had been found in the top branches of an old Marula tree, but with no predators around. I decided to wait until dark to head to that area in the hopes that a leopard would return. The leopard’s ability to stash their kills in a tree, out of reach from any scavenging lions or hyenas, allows them to leave it with peace of mind and continue with their day/nights activities. Be it to fetch eager cubs or even just find a water hole to quench their thirst after a hot afternoon.
During our sundowner break, we watched the crimson orange sun set behind the magnificent Drakensberg mountain range while enjoying the local favourite “Amarula cream” made from the fruit of the Marula tree. After an iconic African sunset, I decided to make our way to the Marula tree I heard about with the deceased warthog carcass. The scene we arrived at left me speechless.
Hanging by only a now thin piece of hide, was an adult warthog. Its only means of identification was by its head with the large tusks protruding from the mouth. Most of the carcass had already been eaten. While watching the carcass, the head dropped to the ground.
On a large branch underneath this hanging meat was a beautiful large male leopard. His nose was still pinkish, indicating that he was probably not yet past five years old. He was balancing on the branch while keeping his front legs up holding onto the warthog as he fed. His moves reminded me of advanced yoga poses as he tried to stretch and reach for the remaining meat. After showing us his rear end and leaning all the way forward, off the branch (in the downward dog pose) the carcass finally ripped and fell to the bottom of the tree.
He looked around sheepishly and then made his way down ever so gracefully and continued to feed on the ground. He looked much bigger now and one could see a definite dewlap hanging from his large neck. We watched him for another 20 minutes or so, everyone wildly snapped photo after photo. He continued to feed until he was satisfied and crept off into the darkness before any hyenas could pick up the scent and disturb him.
This was an incredibly rare sighting. Being able to sit with a leopard for almost 40 minutes, without him even worrying about our presence was humbling and something neither I nor my guests will ever forget.
Story and photos by: