“Life isn’t measure in how many breaths you take, it is measured in how many moments take your breath away”.
Note: Apologies again that image quality my be low again due ti having to reduce image size.
There are moments in life that simply you cannot fathom. You wish that someone was filming you or you wish you could relive the moment and feeling over and over again. The reality however, means that these moments only come once and you must enjoy every second when they do occur. Whilst being on this magnificent continent for quite a while, I have had many moments where I have just thought “wow”, my blog last week being one of them, and thankfully this week has been no different. I have had a number of these moments which I will share with you right now.
The first came very early in the week and if I’m honest, I thought my whole blog would be about this incident, yet as always the bush never fails to surprise us. It had been a quiet morning and I drove over a dam wall, the cracked mud gasped for rain that the clouds promised but hadn’t delivered. I turned around and exited the dam wall along another path. I spotted some drag marks. I jumped out of the vehicle. Fresh. Either side of the drag was perfectly formed spoor. The small and delicate pad prints indicated the paws of a leopard. The drag went in the direction of a small cluster of rocks on the other side of the road. I followed tentatively (a leopard with a kill is the last thing you want to annoy).
My guests spotted some movement at the base of the nearby kopjie but nothing could be seen. We sat and waited a while then I decided to try another angle so I pulled my car forward. A small face at the base of a fig tree caught my eye. Grabbing my binoculars I checked. Sure enough there he was, watching us intently. A few minutes passed, both parties unmoving. I managed to snap a few photos of our camouflaged cat before he turned and made his way out of sight. I drove around to an area where we could get a view of the other side of the kopjies (albeit a far visual), once again the binos came in handy and I pinpointed the leopard again, this time lounging on a big rock, paws dangling as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Eventually he made his way deeper in the kopjie and out of sight. Leopards are extremely elusive creatures so to find evidence then find the creature was so rewarding and to spend some quality time with an animal that people search years for always gives me a buzz. The morning after the reward was even greater, another leopard was spotted and the picture opportunities were fantastic.
The second big moment of note during the week also occurred on a quiet morning. As you know our wild dog pack has been stealing a lot of headlines on my blog and they definitely get a mention this week. Most of the morning had been spent following dog tracks yet the animals themselves had evaded us. After leaving the area, the whole pack decided to show themselves to another vehicle on exactly the roads we had driven. Unfortunately, by the time we had then arrived at the sighting all the other cars had seen the dogs, but now they had moved into the block and visual had been lost. I tried to predict their movements and jumped off the tracker seat, not giving up. I never give up. A big drainage line lay to our North and I walked in. At first the drainage line was narrow, thickets lay here, there and everywhere and the sand was deep. Thankfully no dugga boys lay in wait. The drainage meandered to the west and opened up beautifully. That is where I spotted them. An adult’s rounded ears poked out from behind the grass whilst other members of the pack lazed in the shade of a guarri bush. The buzz of excitement and nervousness at finding such a rare and endangered animal on foot is a feeling like no other. I wish I could have bottled the emotion up and at that point I wish I had a camera crew following my movements, capturing exactly how everything unfolded. The moment was pure serenity. I stood in the shade of a bushwillow watching the dogs lounge around with a huge grin on my face as the adrenaline pumped. Then came the pups, bounding down the embankment directly in front of me before being greeted by their family members. The yipping and high pitched chirping helped to make this such a gorgeous moment and what was even better, they didn’t know I was there. I hadn’t taken my camera so there are no images to show from this enchanting encounter, but at times you just have to sit and watch, there is no need to worry about a camera all the time. Just living in the moment was enough for me.
It seemed that until the end of the week leopards and dogs would have stolen the show, but the lions certainly decided to pitch up later on. One morning the radio crackled into life and informed us that a lioness was found lying by a huge kudu bull she had killed. She lay beside the kill until the evening and after waiting a while at the sighting, we left her to go back to camp and have dinner. Darkness had arrived and the stars sparkled, dinner was finished so we headed out to the scene of the crime.
The spotlight shone and three pairs of eyes shone back. As we entered the drainage line the stench of the ruminant’s insides filled our nostrils. The chewing of flesh and cracking of bones filled our ears, then we saw that there were three lions feeding on the kill, two young lionesses and a big but young male. The female from earlier was not to be seen, they must have chased her off. We sat in silence, watching as the spectacle that unfolded infront of our eyes, lions on a kill are one of my favourite things to see yet seeing it clearly is quite rare. Then there was a crash. We all turned. The spotlight gave us no indication of what it was. Another crash. The spotlight swung round again. A vulture stared at us, it hopped around creating a lot of noise in the thicket. The young male took a lot of interest and started stalking the injured bird. He moved closer and pounced. At that point I started giggling uncontrollably because the bird head dived straight into the paws of the lion, a hilarious spectacle. The bemused lion sat with the bird and he chomped down a few times, then he left the bird and returned to the kudu to carry on with the proper feast. After having his fill he moved off deeper into the bush. We left them all but as we drove off we stopped at the vulture, it’s eyes were still blinking but surely these were it’s last breaths!? What an incredible sighting. The next morning we returned and guess who was hopping around, injured but alive. We couldn’t help but laugh, often vultures fein death (thanotosis) to avoid the attention of predators and it looked like it had worked perfectly for this lucky bird. It was certainly an encounter I will never forget.
The next night we had found a different male lion and after following him down the road he started calling. The still and calm night was disturbed by an eruption of noise that only a king can produce. The roar vibrated through our bodies and echoed for kilometres. Every animal on the reserve knew the that the king was here. It is moments like those that I find myself unbelieving of how lucky I am to currently be living in such a wonderful place.
My final update actually occurred a few weeks ago and unfortunately a sad one. The one eyed lioness who I reported looked very skinny with her cub was put down. Now I never normally condone human intervention but this time it was needed. The lions had broken into a nearby camp looking for an easy meal because they were too weak to hunt properly. Now this is a big problem, especially with small children running around the camp which would provide a very easy meal for a weak lioness. Therefore in this case, I believe that because their feline tb was untreatable and they were in a condition that made them a risk to guests, I think the right decision was made by the vet to put them down humanely instead of being shot, which unfortunately would have happened if they had killed a human. A sad loss but out here life always hangs in the balance.
So all in all, it has been another magical week out here and there are only two weeks until my favourite Dutch girl arrives to explore Kruger with me.