It was a crisp afternoon when we set out in search of the ‘trio’.
James Tyrrell who was behind the wheel informed us that we would be moving as fast as we could to try and find the mating leopards before sundown. There was a great sense of excitement and anticipation as we drove through the golden light of the late afternoon.
We were feeling lucky as we were the only ones in the field looking for the three spotted cats. As we were getting closer to the area they were last seen, ranger Alex Jordan jumped up onto the Tracker’s Seat. It was amazing to see the way James and Alex used their knowledge and previous experience to look for any signs of the leopards having passed by. We stopped a few times to look at tracks that were identified as old, and then after a while we found a fresh track. The already excited passengers became a little bit like children on Christmas morning.
We all had a look at the crisp, fresh track of the leopard crossing the road; Alex had spotted it amongst a sea of impala tracks, and explained how the sharp outline told us that is was very fresh. The search continued with a sense of new energy and a goal in mind – the leopards were close! In an effort to save time, James and Alex opted to loop round to the next road in the direction in which the tracks were heading in the hope that the leopards had already emerged; it was the right call as we immediately found the tracks of all three leopards. We were moving fast to try and beat the slowly descending dusk when we heard the unmistakeable sound of impalas alarming up ahead. They were all staring into a thicket, and casting our eyes in that direction we soon saw one, two, three leopards emerge! Success!
The dynamic between the three leopards was very apparent.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best-known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the vehicles.
Another leopard who originated in the Kruger National Park, he has established a large territory in the south eastern areas of Londolozi.
The Inyathini male was making it difficult for his son the Tortoise Pan male to get close to the Mashaba female. It was very evident that it was the young male that the Mashaba female wanted to mate with rather than the older one, but she had no chance as with throaty growls the Inyathini male would ward him off each time. It was amazing to see the Inyathini male watching the female so intently and following close behind every time she moved.
The Tortoise Pan male eventually just wandered off as he could tell he wasn’t going to win with his father around. After sitting with the leopards for some time we bumbled off to next exciting adventure.
We then were lucky enough to watch the Ntsevu pride start their nightly routine. It was a really powerful moment to watch the first lioness yawn, stretch and walk with apparent purpose from their resting place. Like a choreographed dance routine the other females got up one-by-one, walking in a line, with the small cubs following. We followed at a distance and waited patiently for any signs of a hunt. There was no moon, and in the blackness on an open crest the pride tried to encircle a small herd of impala, but were either seen, heard or smelt by the wily antelope, the alarm was sounded, and the hunt was over. We left them melting off into the darkness.
I walked away thinking about how we use our senses differently and more intently in the bush.
Without realising it I had been more engaged and alert and had learnt so much in such a short space of time. Nature has a very clever way of awakening the mind and I feel lucky to be able to be a part of that.