A very close encounter with a leopard

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Africa » South Africa » Mpumalanga » Sabi Sands
June 8th 2019
Published: June 11th 2019
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The wake up call at Tydon Safari Camp in Sabi Sands was a little later than at Gomo Gomo and we enjoyed the extra lie in albeit only another half hour.

Again the routine was to rise, get dressed warmly and head down for a coffee before boarding the land rover for the morning game drive.

For some reason here at Sabi Sands it seemed much lighter in the sky even though there was only a half hours difference to Gomo Gomo get up and about time.

We again got to feel like royalty this morning as we are the only two staying at the safari camp although there will apparently be more people coming in later in the day.

Drikus,a stocky South African guy, who told us he loved the outdoors, was to be our driver this morning.

He was little different to Neil from last evening and got the land rover speeding down the boundary fence, up and down the rises in the terrain so that we felt like a couple of well mixed milkshakes when he slowed and pulled off to face east and declare ‘welcome to my office’ ! It was another stunning sunrise that we will never get tired of.

We were half an hour wandering here and there on the tracks before we took a stop for a sighting. It was a bird…….and for the life of me I can’t remember its name but it flitted away as soon as I got the camera on it anyway.

We passed a couple of other groups out and about and they confirmed what Drikus had thought, the western side of their concession was ‘animal free’ this morning. He was starting to become a bit desperate as he was aware we wanted to see a lion and there wasn’t even an impala that inhabit Kruger by the thousands.

Then Drikus found us something to view….another bird, the battalier.However this one did hang around for the camera and it is quite impressive with its red beak and has no tail as such. Its baby was sitting up in the nest in an adjacent tree. Drikus reckoned that the mother had an eye out for Dad who would have been out hunting for food for the baby. The baby was just too far away to capture on video clearly and with a steady shot. It was grey and apparently doesn’t get its colouring until it is 9 years old and becomes sexually active ! Sounds a bit reverse to us humans !

Close by we caught sight of a kudu slowly wandering through the bush. They are very solid and solitary animals and don’t appear to associate with other animals of prey.

We had our morning coffee at the top of a large clearing and this morning a tennis biscuit, something we haven’t had in years.

Drikus went off to the ‘little boy’s room’ something all our guides have done on the drives and we reckon they all go for a cigarette.

So here we were out in the open and on our own. We bet each other how quick we could climb into the land rover if there was a rustle in the nearby bush and a leopard or a lion or a hyena for that matter, took a liking to us. Thankfully nothing like that happened and we were still standing there admiring the scenery and eating another tennis biscuit when Drikus came back from the ‘little boy’s room’.

Heading off we watched two hippos in a watering hole. The male was protecting the female by standing back to back. Drikus radioed to other groups nearby of our find and we moved off as they arrived to view the two huge hippos.

This was when all of a sudden the action really started to happen. Drikus had information over the radio of a leopard on the move very close by and before we knew it the very large male was coming through the bush and long grass parallel to the land rover just a few minutes away.

Then it decided to leave the bush and it was heading straight for us on the track. It passed by the vehicle so close we could have reached out and touched it !It then crossed in front of us and walked into a drainage line and was out of sight. By now 3 other groups had arrived and with them we took up a position where the drainage line ended and the leopard would come back out into the open.

Drikus warned us of a loud and sharp noise that a bush buck atop the drainage line would make when it saw the leopard but that didn’t actually happen until the leopard had passed out of the drainage line. The leopard wasn’t the least bit interested and he continued to walk past our stationery vehicle and then away into the bush probably heading for water nearby.

We had had 3 or 4 minutes of tense excitement and we were still catching our breath after the leopard had gone on its way.

It was certainly going to take something even more special to top what we had just experienced and a warthog unfortunately didn’t quite do it. He looked interesting though with his up turned tusks. They have seemed to be less social animals when we have seen them but this one posed well for us.

We headed back for a late breakfast because the leopard sighting and following had taken up more time than thought.

We were buzzing when we got back and met a couple of Aussies who had come in from the Tydon Bush Camp for a couple of nights to get a wider experience. They had been on one of the other vehicles throughout most of our sighting. They too were very impressed with what they had experienced.

After lunch and a rest it was time for the afternoon/night drive and while we still hoped for a lion sighting we were still high after this morning’s leopard experience and we both declared that was going to be very hard to beat.

Like this morning it took a while to find some animals to observe but first up was a large white rhino very busy eating grass and not interested in us at all even though again, like this morning we were just metres away from him.

We had our sunset drinks and again Drikus went off into the bush for a few minutes. Being a little further on than twilight we decided to stay very close to the car….just in case !

The only large animal Drikus picked up in his spotlight after drinks was a hyena but these animals never seem to stop being on the move and we had just a brief time to view him before he disappeared into the bush.

On the way back to the safari camp Drikus stopped at an area where he had seen a chameleon before and found it to show us under some light from the spotlight. He said he had a small one as a pet but we wonder whether that was strictly true unless he of course got it somewhere else than the bush around us.

At the boma dinner when we got back we shared our experiences to date with the Aussie couple and also a couple from Wales. They both had gone out on a drive through Kruger National Park which we will all do tomorrow to wrap up our time at Tydon Safari Camp.

It had been a great day for sightings especially the elephant and the leopard experiences.

Now all we need to see is a lion and the Big Five will be ticked off !

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