On the Trail of the Elusive Leopard – part 1

The safari schedule can be a bit demanding but it's worth it. On our second day at Londolozi we awoke to a knock on the door at 5 a.m. which is the norm. Coffee and fruit were delivered along with our wake up. We had half an hour to get dressed and meet in the car park close by. Kate and Life were waiting with our vehicle along with Allan and Loraine. It really is a luxury having just the four of us in the vehicle, which could seat nine if all the seats were filled. I don't think they ever put more than six at a time though. It was cool and cloudy but not raining. The early morning is a beautiful time in the bush. Everything is coming awake with innumerable birds singing their songs all at the same time. Londolozi has several ponds and water holes as well as the river so this provides habitat for and attracts a great variety of animals. We saw Hippopotamus wallowing in the water as well as a crocodile. There was also a large nest of Village Weavers being built on a dead tree standing in the middle of a pond. The bird life here is phenomenal. I have tried to write down some of the names of the birds we are seeing but I can't keep up with it, there are so many. In particular there are an extraordinary number of different types of eagles. That morning we saw an African Carrier Hawk, a Wahlberg's Eagle, and an African Fish Eagle–all majestic and beautiful.

Kate said there had been some leopard tracks seen in one part of the reserve so we headed in that direction. The rangers and trackers all communicate quite frequently by radio while they are out on a game drive. They share information about sightings and tracks and cooperate in locating animals. So after a bit of looking and narrowing it down via searching for tracks and combing certain areas of bush, Kate and Life were pretty sure that the male leopard they were tracking was somewhere in a particular patch of bush. Kate parked the vehicle and they both went off into the bush to look for him leaving us sitting in the Land Rover. Whenever they leave the vehicle to walk around on foot, they take a rifle, just in case. We didn't have to wait too long before they were back and sharing their success. They had located the leopard. In order to get to him, we drove off the road and into the thick of the bush. The reserve is crisscrossed by dirt and sand roads and tracks but when necessary, they simply drive into the bush and go overland to where they need to be. It is utterly amazing where they can go. You would think there was no way through but then they drive in, over a few bushes and trees and there you are staring at a leopard. We found the Marthly Male, as this leopard is called, lying in some grass having a snooze. He was so well camouflaged it was easy to see how he could be missed by the casual observer. By the same token, that sensational camouflage also allows him to sneak up on his prey.

I've had trouble getting my posts to upload and I'm not sure what the problem is. I'm going to try posting smaller bits at a time to see if that works. Our leopard fun continues in the next post!

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