We had not even driven out of camp before we heard bushbuck alarming just outside the entrance.
As we drove into the area we saw the bushbuck, who with their intent stare and loud bark, led us straight to the Flat Rock male leopard who seemed to be on a territorial patrol. After some discussion, Sean Zeederberg and I thought it would be wise to try and stick with him as his general movement had been heading north towards the river.
James Tyrrell had left it up to us to follow the leopard as he entered the Founders Camp access.
Things got slightly tricky as he weaved his way through an overgrown watercourse in front of the Founders rooms. We had parked the vehicle in the hope he would use the stream bed which came towards us. Thankfully he did.
As he started making his way down towards the Sand River we spoke about the possibility of watching him jump over the shallow flowing stream. Most photographers dream of getting that perfect photograph of animals jumping over rivers in a perfect scene and just the small chance of seeing it is what kept us intrigued. The sun had now just broken above the horizon as the crepuscular rays shone through the trees down by the river. We had radioed Pete Thorpe and James Tyrrell there was a chance of him heading towards the river. The race to get to the river then commenced.
The moment of truth was approaching. If the leopard turned towards the river then our chances of him jumping were considerably higher than if he carried on walking along the southern bank. The odds were stacked in our favour and he turned towards the river. While on a territorial patrol leopards urinate often to demarcate their territory so they will often stop to drink at some point.
At this point Pete Thorpe and Greg Pingo had joined us down in the river. The excitement and anticipation on both vehicles was unreal, there were nervous laughs bouncing around the vehicles as we repositioned for the best view. All the while the leopard kept moving. We had identified two boulders and thought this is surely going to be where he crosses. At this point there was still no sign of James.
The whole morning started off in the hope of watching the Flat Rock male jump across the river and see something which does not happen frequently. Spending the better half of the morning with this male was good enough, although we might not have got the jump we had anticipated it was equally rewarding watching him wade through the river. Sometimes you won’t always get what you anticipated or hoped for when it comes to nature and wildlife but take out what you want of a situation and make the most of it. I’d say we were pretty lucky at the end of the day.