At last a Big Cat and this one was up his tree

Published: June 10th 2019
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There was the tap on the unit window at 5.15 am just as happened yesterday and we arose and quickly dressed warmly not to be caught out like yesterday morning when we really felt the cold.

What would today bring? Would the elusive big cat be found for us to view before we finished out stay at Gomo Gomo Lodge? Only time will tell.

We were to continue our game drive with Gert and Dominic along with the American family and we nabbed the front row of the three tiers on the back of the land rover again.

Heading out it wasn’t long before we came across a group of zebras preparing to roam and graze for the day. It is amazing how every zebra in the world has its own distinctive coat and no two are the same in their pattern of stripes even though it impossible to tell without looking hard at them.

The sunrise was happening as we drove virtually east and catching the light through the trees and bushes made for quite a spectacle.

All the animals appeared to be on the move early this morning including a good size herd of elephants that crossed the road momentarily ahead of us and then headed off into the bush leaving us a view of their rear ends as they disappeared.

We didn’t drive very much further on and a small group of giraffes of all heights were in view with zebras behind them. Apparently these two animals are often seen together or close by each other as each look out for each other to avoid predators.

Down at a water hole a group of impalas were taking on water and for the first time we were far enough away on the other side of the watering hole so as not to scare the group making them difficult to photograph. Zebras were close by and after the impalas moved on the zebras took on water too.

With the sun now well up in the sky we stopped for a coffee and muffin and discussed the possibility of viewing a big cat today. There had been plenty of talk about what we assumed was a small pride of lions crossing the property but moving on out of bounds for us.

We were left wondering would it happen for us today as we continued to drive around following half leads until it was time to head back to the lodge for breakfast.

Back at the lodge the other group of 4 hadn’t had any luck catching up with a big cat either but we were all sure it was going to happen before the end of the day.

We skipped the nature walk and decided instead to put our feet up on our terrace to watch what might come down to the watering hole in front of the lodge.

Sure enough around 12.30pm the procession started with giraffes first on the scene for a brief drink. Then came a solitary elephant who took all the time in the world to drink what it needed to before wandering off out of sight.

Then elephants by the dozen or more arrived from the very large to the tiniest of babies all first drinking at one point at the watering hole and then moving about 20 metres further around where they all got in except one, who seemed to be the largest, and had a fun mud bath. The bigger elephants sucking up a mix of water and mud and spraying it over themselves while the small ones simply rolled around in the mud and water.

Then some of them decided that mud wasn’t all they wanted to coat themselves in but that a trunk load of dust sucked up and them blown out over themselves as best as they could was needed.

Now before us were elephants that took up the whole picture we could see either rolling in the muddy water or on land dusting themselves with dusty dirt. A fascinating sight all taking place before us.

Once the elephants left along came the giraffes. First a mother and child. The young one spread its legs and drank from the watering hole while the mother stood by viewing the scene. They left but returned shortly thereafter and this time the mother drank. Where they went for those few minutes wasn’t obvious and even though the mother was as tall as the trees around the watering hole and at least she should have been visible they both just vanished from sight.

It was then time for lunch even though it didn’t seem long since breakfast all the action down at the watering hole had pushed time on to 2.30pm.

A short rest and we prepared ourselves for the afternoon game drive and possibly our last chance to view a big cat before we head tomorrow after a morning drive, to Sabi Sands

We still had the feeling Gert and Dominic had something to prove to us that they could track down a big cat between them but we are realistic and this is not a zoo where the animals are generally up and about all day.

We headed back in what appeared to be a similar direction to yesterday afternoon although if the truth be told Gretchen reckons Gert could drive us around in a circle and we would be none the wiser.

We stopped next to a large termite mound and watched a couple of miniature mongoose enjoying basking in the late afternoon sun with not a care that the vehicle was parked next to the mound.

Driving on time was ticking by towards sunset drinks after which we would have just an hour or so left to see a big cat today.

Then there was activity and a lot of chatter on the vehicle intercom and Gert suddenly found his accelerator and we were off at top speed or at least as fast as he would dare take us on the bumpy tracks without tossing one of us out if we hit a large bump !

Although neither Gert nor Dominic had told us we had worked out that they and the other guides and trackers use a code between themselves when they have a sighting. Not that we had a hope of understanding what they were talking about as it seemed to be a mix of Africannes,English and a local tongue. Clearly though they didn’t want to raise our hopes in case the reported sighting wasn’t correct or the animal being tracked wandered off to another property where we couldn’t drive onto.

However, once we heard from the intercom that we were first in line to view something special then we got the feeling that this was just about to be the big moment and we must say that not knowing just heightened the excitement even more.

The vehicle that had found the leopard in the bush with partial visibility reversed out to give us an opportunity to view this magnificent looking beast lying in the grass in the partial shelter of a bushy thicket.

Behind us were another 4 vehicles including the other from Gomo Gomo, lined up for their turn to view the big cat but before we pulled away the leopard rose up and walked out of sight into a drainage line. Where had it gone? Would we or the others get a chance to view it again or was this to be our lot?

There was a flurry of conversation and Gert and Dominic had picked the right option as to where the leopard was headed next up the other side of the drainage line and straight up a marula tree.

By the time we got there and took a park side on to the leopard with his legs hanging over a branch that gave us a fully clear view of him. He was probably about 5 to 6 metres up the tree looking directly at us and as calm as can be.

We had a few minutes there before the other vehicles that had been waiting to get a spot where the leopard had walked off from,arrived.We later learned at dinner that night when we got back that the people in the other Gomo Gomo vehicle didn’t get the view we did as the leopard came down and headed off into the bush. As the Irish girl in that group said ‘all she saw was his arse !’

It didn’t really matter now if we didn’t see anything more of the Big Five as we had had the most wonderful opportunity to witness this leopard in such a clear view in its favourite resting place.

Our group was all abuzz when we sat down to dinner in the boma and really the leopard sighting and experience was the only thing we could talk about.

We needed to pack tonight as we were going to take the morning game drive tomorrow before we would be driven to Hoedspruit airport for the pick up to travel by road the 3 hours to Sabi Sands and another 3 nights on safari.

Would anything match what we had seen in the late afternoon today?

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


15th June 2019

Just beautiful
He is just so beautiful! And I am using Marla oil on my face these days, so now I will think of this majestic animal every time I reach for the little bottle
15th June 2019

No lions today and just the outline of one yesterday but the leopards at Kruger very much made up for it

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