A couple of years ago, while I was a full time guide at Londolozi, I experienced one truly incredible moment. The moment has stayed with me for years and will probably remain with me for many years to come.
It started out like any other 'ordinary' day (I suppose as ordinary as any day in the bush could be - a relative term) but the beauty of the bush is that no two days are the same, every drive you head out into the field, you are heading into the excitement of the unknown.
Our plan was to head into the South Eastern section of the property to look for any signs of leopard. The South Eastern section was always a productive area to look for leopards because of the dense vegetation and beautiful drainage lines that run through it. We headed down into the area and not before long found tracks for a large male leopard. They seemed fresh and from some time during the early morning as they were over all the other nocturnal tracks.
We started following the tracks, and with help from my colleagues began checking different areas and following the tracks. It didn't take us long before my colleague found the leopard, the only problem being that the animal was approaching the boundary with a neighbouring property. We rushed off and by the time we got to the sighting managed to see his tail as he disappeared into the dense vegetation.
So having had a brief glimpse of the leopard we had been tracking and still being fairly early in the morning, we decided to continue on and see if we could find anything else in the area.
Another ranger Simon radio'ed me directly and said he had found a female leopard close by! How lucky were we? two leopards in on morning! We headed off in his direction and what a sight it was. This beautiful leopard wasn't shy, she wasn't trying to stay hidden, she was merely walking through clearings, atop termite mounds and scanning the area. We provided her with enough space and kept on moving far ahead of her allowing her come to us.
Scanning around ourselves, we knew there was a large termite mound coming up so with the sun at our backs, we decided to move ahead of her and the moon and hopefully get a picture of her coming onto the mound in some beautiful light, making for some spectacular images.
Well, sadly, this was not the case, we waited patiently and as she approached the mound, she stopped and looked around very carefully...
She then decided to walk around the mound and ignore my plans completely, but what happened next, blew myself, guests and colleague Simon away! She started contact calling and it was at this moment we realized she had been hiding her cubs in this den!
She went into the burrow and pulled out this tinny ball of fur and started heading back in the direction she had just come from. Realizing this is a sensitive sighting, we gave her space and decided to do big loops around her as not to interfere with her. Our guess was that she had already moved the one and was now retuning to the same spot to safely stash away the second cub.
Both vehicles parked out of the path she took before, but to our surprise, she change and walked straight towards us, showing huge trust in us! this is the view we got of her....
She then proceeded to walk right past us! completely relaxed and completely comfortable with our presence.
We decided to head much further down the road, park the vehicle and switch off to see her one last time before leaving her in peace to finish moving her cubs and to protect the trust in which she has shown us in the same way for her.
Sightings like this are definitely few and far between and to be completely honest left me speechless with tears rolling down my cheeks, its moments like this that I am truly grateful to do what I do and to have had the privilege in working in the field for such extended periods of time.
Until next time,