As guides we are often asked about our excursions into the bush, how many kills we have seen or if we could choose one moment that stood out above all the rest? To be honest, it is very difficult to choose just one as they have all been amazing in their own way.
There is definitely great skill, a sixth sense almost all the tracker’s possess when it comes to finding the animals and I must say I am very privileged to work with some of the best in the business. The tracker’s knowledge and their ability to read the unspoken signs of the bush is mind blowing.
Every now and then we are lucky to catch one of these ‘great moments’ and at the end of the day it comes down to being at the right place at the right time and often the most memorable experiences unfold when you least expect it.
I have been guiding at Londolozi for the past year and I must say it has by far been the best year I have had in the bush. There is just something very special about this place that words simply cannot describe.
On a recent game drive with Paul and Kathy Neff we decided to try and find the Marthly Male who we had viewed earlier that morning. We followed him one morning for about two hours, watching him on a territorial patrol through the center of his territory. The Marthly Male, now almost 13 years old and possibly my favourite leopard at Londolozi, holds a special place in my heart. I first saw Marthly Male six years ago and as I watched him drag a fully grown male Impala for about two kilometers, trying to find a suitable tree to hoist his kill, I remember thinking to myself how majestic and incredibly powerful he was.
It’s not only the thrill of tracking and finding an animal that makes a sighting enthralling but following an animal and trying to understand it’s behaviour, what they have done, what they are doing and trying to figure out what they are going to do next.
On this particular day it looked like he had not eaten for a good day or two. As we followed him, he attempted to hunt a Nyala which was unsuccessful as it’s bark-like alarm call alerted all the animals in the area to the ever present danger.
We followed him for a little while longer as he continued scent marking until he decided to take cover in some thick vegetation next to Vomba dam to see out the heat of the midday sun.
That afternoon we headed out for what was to be an unforgettable drive. We were very keen to try and find the Marthly Male again and see what he had got up to since we left him earlier in the morning.
It was still relatively warm and I explained to Paul and Kathy that when trying to relocate a leopard, it can always be a difficult task as they do move around a lot more during the day unlike lions, especially considering he was looking hungry but on the other hand it had been a very hot day and there was also a possibility that he was still resting and conserving energy to continue his patrol in the late afternoon. Fanoti, my tracker, suggested that we head back to the area where we had left him and try to see if we can get a good idea as to where he may have gone.
As we drove from the airstrip down towards Vomba Dam nothing could prepare us for the sighting we were about to witness…
As we were approaching the watering hole there was a family of warthogs who had come down to have a drink of water after foraging for most of the day. They seemed fairly relaxed as they made their way down to the waters edge and from where we had parked we could not see into the thicket where we had left Marthly Male. Briefly looking at the situation we presumed that he had obviously moved some time during the day.
After just a few minutes with the warthogs, it became clear that all was not as well around the waterhole as it had appeared.
Suddenly warthogs darted off in all directions as a sense of panic broke out.
The pictures below reveal what happened next…..
This was definitely a sighting that i will remember for a very long time and just shows us that anything can happen at any time….
Written by: Trevor McCall-Peat
Photographed by: Paul Neff