We’d heard that the Sparta pride had been located earlier in the day and that there was a good chance that they would be lazing about in the same location, even though it was now afternoon. Ntsako our ranger had informed us that the pride may still be sleeping and that we should drive, look for other wildlife, and make our way to the lions once it had cooled.
“I don’t mind if they are sleeping, I would love to see them if we can,” said Irene who was seated in front of me and eager to see lions. Irene had come prepared with cameras and had even rented some longer lenses from the Londolozi Creative Studio. Ntsako nodded and we made our way to the sleeping lions. The lions were cuddled up next to one another, some lay on their backs with their paws facing the sky, mostly each one lay directly next to the other, squeezing in to get as much shade as they could under a small tree they’d found.
We sat with the lions for about half an hour –Ntsako amused us with stories of the pride and we watched enthralled at their movements – paws stretched in different directions. At this stage the sun was beaming brightly and the shade under the tree was becoming less, one by one the lions joined each other under another small acacia that offered more cover.
Driving further into the reserve we observed a Leadwood tree filled with white backed vultures all hovering above. This was a sign that there may be something of interest and our excitement spiked as we made our way through the grass towards the vultures. Fan (the tracker) and Ntsako proceeded to make their way on foot through the bush hoping they’d find the source of interest that the vultures were eying out.
Five minutes later the two guides returned and hopped onto the Land Rover. “We found a leopard!” Ntsako exclaimed. We could hardly believe that this had happened. They had only been a few meters from the vehicle and we had not heard a thing. Irene and myself along with Flavio a friend of ours who’d joined the drive all looked at one another in disbelief.
It was about a minute later that we saw the rosettes of the beautiful Mashaba Young Female. She past the vehicle and jumped onto a fallen tree where she lay with her body draped over the large trunk. She gave us time to observe and take images of her as she looked about.
It soon became apparent to us that she was looking intently ahead of her. We followed her gaze and found the culprit – the hyena thief! There he was gobbling the last of an impala leg that the leopard had killed. The hyena was devouring the meal as fast as he could. He would stop every so often for a breath and than began eating again before dragging the rest of the kill into the distance.
The female leopard had a gash on her back left leg, we were not sure what had caused this but she was still strong enough to make the kill. It was sad to watch her while the hyena gloated in the distance, happily eating her hard earned kill.
We watched the hyena and leopard until it began to get darker, stopping to have drinks and snacks while a yellow moon shown on us, toasting another successful day in the bush. The leopard had lost out today but the time will come when hyena will watch… longing, hoping…
Photographed by Irene Nathanson and Kate Collins.