With just under 15000 hectares or about 37000 acres of land to traverse we are lucky to have a lot of options when it comes to where we should head out on game drives. The very pleasant dilemma of which direction means there are a number of factors that come into play when deciding on which direction to head.
Sometimes you have been tracking the whole morning without success and head back into the same area that afternoon to try again. Sometimes you hear from the other rangers about a particular sighting they had on their drive and you try your luck for that same animal on your next drive because you know where to start. Sometimes predators are found on a kill and you know that most likely they will stay there for some time until the meal is finished and then sometimes your ranger or your tracker or even both will have a gut feeling on where to go and this is when you you should just go with it.
A gut feeling is often unexplainable. It could be because of the amount of time you have spent tracking a particular leopard that you start to feel just a tiny bit more attuned to its movements. But don’t get too confident or cocky about this feeling because it can disappear and then you can’t help but feel one step behind the whole time. It might just be a brief thought that you can’t shake away or it could be stirred from a previous sighting that you had. Sometimes a gut feeling will come from an urge to drive a road that you haven’t driven in a while and when I had that exact thought recently on a game drive it paid off handsomely!
Schotia Road is a beautiful track in the far south of the reserve that takes you through some lovely grassland. As it snakes through a thicker riverine area there is a big termite mound which has a Weeping Boer Bean tree growing out of it. It is from this tree that the road derives its name as Schotia is the family name for the Weeping Boer Bean. I had only driven that road a few times over the years but each time I did so I always thought how great it would be to see a leopard lying on one of the branches.
One particular morning I set off on game drive with my guests when I suddenly pictured that tree and got this urge to drive down there. It wasn’t a dominant thought and I certainly wasn’t confident that there was something there. It was just an urge to head into that area because it was a beautiful area to drive and we wanted to explore.
We meandered our way through the grasslands of the south-western parts of the reserve before turning on to the old Selati Railway line that now serves as one of the main routes to launch an exploration into the south. As we turned on to Schotia road we stopped to appreciate a crash of rhinos grazing next to the road. After a few minutes Rich turned around to me from the tracker’s seat in the front and asked me to pass him the binoculars. I could tell he was excited and had spotted something but just wanted to make sure for himself. He brought the binoculars down away from his eyes and looked at all of us with a big smile. “Would anyone like to see a leopard?” he said as he pointed to the prominent Weeping Boer Bean growing out of the large termite quite some distance away. I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here…
These days when I get a similar gut feeling, I simply go with it and hope it works out for the best…