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Home of leopards
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Andrea Sithole and I had been in search of wild dogs.
We had driven practically every road until we met up on the last one, which neither of us had driven. We were working on process of elimination, figuring we had to come up with something, but had still come up blank, until Andrea called me over and showed me fresh leopard tracks in front of his vehicle.
We immediately changed our plan and set off in search of the female leopard, that according to trackers Sersant Sibuyi and Trevor Makukule had only passed by minutes ago.
They were not wrong; no longer than four minutes later we drove around the corner and there she was. Our plan was not originally to look for a leopard but that for me is the beauty of this place; you never quite know what is going to be around the next corner. We watched her as she weaved in and out of the thicket disappearing in a split second then reappearing and walking back onto the road, scent marking every few meters.
After the recent rains on Londolozi a lot of the animals are on territorial patrols to re-scent their own territory.
At first we couldn’t get a clear view of her face in order to ID her.
She walked off the road momentarily and we didn’t see her pop out so we drove around the corner where we saw her crouched down drinking from a small pool. Leopards prefer to drink from smaller sources of water. That’s not to say they won’t drink at large waterholes but from my observations they feel a lot safer quenching their thirst from a smaller water body.
We managed to drive around a small gap through the dense foliage where we managed to position the vehicle on the side of the road. She (we had by now identified her as the Nhlanguleni female) briefly glanced up at us as she carried on walking down the road.
As she walked past the vehicle for the third time she changed her direction and turned down a small game trail which lead straight down towards the Sand River. There were two different game trails she could’ve taken. One towards a thick inaccessible area and the other towards the beautifully breathtaking view of the open channel. She paused and scanned, then descended down.
The picture sums up the sighting.
She did not lay in the sand too long before she glanced back in our direction once, then towards the water, then back in our direction, almost trying to weigh up the options as to where to go next.
We had seen the small water channel which she had glanced at a few times, almost trying to figure out which would be the best way to get back into some cover and continue on her territorial patrol. When she glanced back towards us for the fifth time I had a feeling she was going to return back to where she had just come from.
She yawned once and then stood up and started walking straight back towards us. My guests were thrilled as they had been wanting to see her walking towards up with the incredible view of the River behind her.
We all scrambled to get our cameras ready as she paused on the northern side of a small eroded gully, which had surely been enlarged by the recent rains. She paused and leaped over the gully providing an incredible moment.
Things are so unpredictable in the wild; one second we were getting ready to leave her and let her carry on with her patrol to the next thing she was getting ready to jump over an eroded gully with flowing water below.
Always expect the unexpected in the wild!
We were very fortunate to have sat waiting for that extra five minutes as it led to us being able to capture this beautiful moment.
She moved off into an area where we could not get the vehicle to so we decided to leave her in peace.
Guy worked as a ranger for Londolozi from 2017 until the end of 2021. He grew up in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal. From a young age he visited the bush each holiday. It was during these early years that his passion and interest was ...