Everyone has lifetime firsts (first kiss; first job etc.) and every safari-goer has their safari firsts. I had an exceedingly exciting personal first last year when I saw a wild serval here at Londolozi. What makes these moments even more exhilarating is that you just never know when one may come about.
This week while trying to find a leopard that had been evading us for about two hours, we stopped a few metres from a herd of impala. Often overlooked in my opinion as they are striking antelope, we were looking the opposite direction listening out for the rasping roars of the elusive leopard. The impala ram controlling the harem behind us made some horrible snorting noises as he chased the females around. I noticed how the morning light was hitting the herd perfectly and got my camera ready to try and capture the antics of the ram.
While staring through the viewfinder, missing the shot I was aiming for, something completely unexpected happened. The ewe stopped running away. The ram paused behind her and proceeded to mount her. I held my breath while holding the shutter button down. I was seeing impalas mate, metres away. By the time it had begun it was already over. I suppose the stamina is preserved for the herding rather than the action itself.
Now, since impala are the most common animal out here, this may seem like an unexciting event. However in all my years visiting the bush, and all the years I have observed impala rutting, never ever have I witnessed impalas mating. I have asked many guides and trackers, most of which have never experienced this either. I have been told rumours that the mating happens at night, hence the reason we never see it. Not this time though… It was in full view.
Unfortunately for the other two guides though, they were too busy sitting with their backs to the impala. They missed it. Lesson to take away from this: always expect the unexpected and don’t brush off an epic impala sighting.