Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Finally a Leopard

I did not realize this when we began the trip, but there is an official Big Five when it comes to viewing animals in Africa. Hunters designated them as the most dangerous animals to hunt. They are elephant, buffalo, lion, a rhinoceros, and leopard. Sometimes you hear of the Big Seven by adding the second rhinoceros and the cheetah. There is also a Wee Five which include things like the rhinoceros beetle and the leopard tortoise.

We saw three of the five easily at Zulu Nyala. The first evening we started with the elephant and quickly added the buffalo and white rhinoceros. We added the lion on an extra excursion to Phinda Reserve in what was one of the the highlights of the trip. (I’ll share more of that when I get some pictures from Jim to show just how close we were. We also added the Black Rhinoceros on that safari, getting up close and personal with a family of three.

We continued to see more of these animals as we traveled to Spion Kop in the Drakensburg Mountains, Toka Leya in Zambia and Chilwero on the Chobe River in Botswana. I asked Raymond at Spion Kop if he worried at all about leopards attacking his cattle. He said that they are not a danger because even the calves are too big for the leopard to get excited about. Leopards like to drag their kills into a tree where they can eat at their leisure without competition.

But even though they were advertised everywhere, the leopard remained elusive until we got to Tubu Tree, our last stop on the trip.

Tubu Tree is a small camp with only five tents for guests, so we were really able to feel alone as we rode around the reserve. The down side of that is that with only two other vehicles out there, the sightings were harder to come by.

Nevertheless, we met up with a magnificent female leopard on our first day there. Another vehicle made the spotting so we quickly headed off in that direction. I fully expected that this animal would be gone by the time we arrived, but she was still walking down the road as we arrived. She acted completely as if we were not there, walking right by the Land Rover within a couple of feet. After she passed, our driver took off in chase. After doing this twice, the guide said we needed to leave her be for the evening.

We were amazed at her beauty and strength, but mostly we were amazed at how little she seemed to care about us. She was almost close enough to touch on two occasions as she walked by and did not do much more than glance at us.

The pictures are a bit dark as they were taken in the late evening and it was a bit cloudy, but they clearly show her power and elegance. Linda also managed to take a video with her iPhone.

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