Tracker Freddy Ngobeni and I set off with our guests one afternoon with the intention of finding buffalo. We had heard reports of a fairly large herd on the western side of Londolozi, where the land opens up into grasslands – a favoured habitat of these large animals. Setting out to find buffalo can be a tricky task; one would think that a herd of 150 animals is easy to find, however, not being territorial means that the buffalo move freely over vast distances. We decided to drive along a fairly high road with a good view in order give ourselves a better chance of spotting the buffalo herd across the landscape. I soon became excited and pointed out what I believed to be a few buffalo in the distance. I was quickly corrected by Freddy who politely informed me that the buffalo I was pointing at were in fact a clump of dark coloured rocks…
However, Freddy made up for my poor buffalo spotting by pointing out the actual herd of buffalo a few kilometres away, without the use of his binoculars! We made our way closer to try and get a better view.
We sat with the buffalo moving around us for quite some time, enjoying the experience of having these large animals move nonchalantly past us while chewing on grass. It was a wonderful experience as the herd was an impressive size of about 150 to 200 individuals. We decided to move ahead of them towards a waterhole in the hopes that some of the may go for a drink.
“LEOPARD! LEOPARD!”, Freddy suddenly shouted to me from the front of the vehicle.
I could not believe my eyes. One hundred yards in front of us was a leopard in a tree. Not just a leopard in a tree though; the leopard was trapped in the tree by the herd of buffalo that we were following!
Our buffalo sighting had just taken a turn for the better. Finding a leopard in a tree is a special sight. Finding a leopard in a tree with a herd of buffalo not more than a few feet below is a very rare occurrence indeed…
Born to the Tutlwa female in early-mid 2011, the Nhlanguleni female spent her formative months (and years) in and around the Sand River.
While we were watching, the buffalo stood for at least 30 minutes below where the leopard was perched. Who knows how long they had been there for before we arrived? As one buffalo would leave, another would see the leopard and move in to have a closer look. The leopard was not able to leave the tree at all as the buffalo may have seen it as a threat to their young calves and acted aggressively. As time passed however, the herd began to drift away from the leopard and towards the waterhole to drink before nightfall.
This sighting acted as a reminder that you literally never know what is around the next corner out here. It is surprises like this that truly make each drive an exciting one.