We set out from Tree Camp just before the sun had started to appear. It was a beautiful, cool morning. We could hear the birds starting to wake, distant alarm calls of baboons and the flowing water over the rocks of the Sand River. I just had the feeling it was going to be a great start to the day.
Tracker Freddy Ngobeni and I had had a quick chat in the car park before our guests arrived, and decided that this morning we were going to try find a leopard. We will never lose the excitement and enthusiasm when that’s our goal. There’s something extraordinary about searching for these elusive predators.
We drove out of camp with our four guests in an easterly direction, towards the soon-to-be-rising sun. The Sand river to our north which we meandered along was filled with a layer of mist enhancing, the beauty of its surroundings. Driving into this part of the reserve, we knew of a couple of leopards that we thought we could potentially find.
Whilst taking in the beauty and slowly moving along the banks of the river, around the upcoming corner was exactly what we had hoped for. A female Leopard drinking from a puddle in the road ahead of us. All six of us bloomed with excitement. To add to this, this female is one of Londolozi’s specials and a leopard I hadn’t seen in a while; the Nkoveni female. Her very obvious milk pouch and clearly suckled teats clearly explained why she had been a little scarce of late: she’d given birth.
We sat with her for about three minutes while she carried on quenching her thirst. The still morning was just getting better. She then stood back up and carried on moving. For just over an hour we followed her moving majestically along the upper banks of the Sand River.
Spraying her urine, scratching her paws in the earth and rubbing against prominent trees and shrubs along the way were all signs that she was protecting her territory. The striking morning light from the now risen sun and the mist expelling from her mouth after each breath she took, was a sight that didn’t need much explaining. Every animal that alarmed at her (birds, vervet monkeys and impalas) made her lift her striking white tail to present herself as not being a threat. This sighting of magnificent Leopard ended with her moving off into an inaccessible part of the river. Most probably towards her waiting cubs. The really exciting thing for me is that hopefully in the upcoming months we’ll be viewing her with another set of offspring, further enhancing to the already spectacular leopard game viewing at Londolozi.