What a day…winter’s chill was cutting through the numerous layers that we had donned for the morning safari as we left the lodge. The sun broke over the horizon spreading hues of orange, red and yellow across the sky. After seeing the lion cubs the night before it was time to find a spotted cat, but the bush sometimes has other ideas in store for us.
The radio crackled (always an exciting time) and we heard ‘wild dogs’ and my excitement grew. The guests had specifically asked if there would be a possibility to see them and here was the chance!
I immediately found my way into the standbys (that’s when you wait to see the dogs if others are already at the sighting) and impatiently longed for my turn. Ducking and weaving through our network of roads, we avoided the sighting but stayed close enough to get there quickly when our time was up.
The tricky things with Wild Dogs is that they’re highly mobile and were on the hunt this morning! When we got the call to come in, the elusive dogs decided to head off into impenetrable bush. Minutes passed by and still nothing…
Suddenly, we saw a flicker of movement in the bush and out came all the dogs. The stopped, listening for the location of the other dogs and then carried on with their mission to find prey.
We followed them for a while and then decided to peel off for a warm cup of coffee as everyone was holding their mugs with 2 hands- trying to warm up on this chilly morning.
Suddenly a few francolin burst out of the bush next to us and began to alarm call. I instructed the guests to step closer to vehicle while I went forward to investigate…
I couldn’t believe it when I stepped forward and saw the tip of a leopard’s tail flicking in the air.
As I said the word ‘leopard’ out loud I heard a commotion behind me and as the dust settled….I saw the guests had promptly jumped into the vehicle with no encouragement from me. I had a major inward giggle as my tracker and I Voster packed away the coffee.
This particular leopard was called Nottens and we went to join her as she ambled down the road marking territory as she went along. I immediately noticed that her mammary glands were no longer swollen and this could only mean one thing…her cubs hadn’t survived. Sadly, 60% of leopard cubs don’t reach maturity.
As we followed her, she led us through the bush, over trees, through rivers and finally she settled into some shade with a look of intent tattooed all over her. There was rustling of grass in front of her. She stalked closer waiting for her chance and then a male bushbuck poked his head out from behind the grass.
Her head dropped, ears pitched forward and her tail twitched with excitement. The bushbuck was about 2 metres away when she suddenly launched her attack sending the bush buck fleeing for his life and barking alarm calls as he ran.
She had missed, but what a sighting!
That afternoon we went down south to watch the Southern Pride as they fed on a fresh buffalo from earlier that morning and over the next couple of drives, we were pleased to see that all 7 cubs seemed to be alive and well.
The cubs played and fought over nipples. They climbed in and out of the carcass feeding on little bits of meat and as we watched we were sure that their swollen little tummies would explode if they put anything more inside.
What an incredible 24 hours in the bush.
Southern Pride Video