Leopard kill, Lion kill and Wild Dogs all in one day!
I left Olifants camp early morning knowing I had a 153-kilometer drive to Lower Sabie ahead and not wanting to miss a thing along the way. Not long after I got onto the H1-4 headed south – my first cup of coffee not even consumed - I came across a leopard in a tree with a dead impala hanging from a branch just off the road. Soon after I arrived, the leopard jumped from the tree and departed my viewing area before I could even think about taking a photograph.
I sat – my heart beating in overdrive - roadside in stunned silence for a bit as I kept watch on the ground for where the elusive leopard might have gone. I was brought back to reality when I heard a female impalas’ longing call for her mate who I guessed was the one dead hanging from the branch over her head. She was distraught and pregnant. All I could imagine was her going into labor and delivering her baby right there in front of me and this leopard awaiting in ambush for the baby. I wanted to watch, and I didn’t want to watch. My emotions were all over the place. It was too early for so much to be happening around me!
I eventually realized, with the distance I had to cover, I needed to move on.
After driving for several hours, I stopped at Satara camp for some cold water on that extremely hot day. The camp was busy with lots of other travelers doing the same which made me anxious to leave and get back on the road.
Soon after leaving Satara, headed south on the main road, I heard a horrible sound which I soon realized was zebra in distress; a yawing and hawing noise. I hit the brakes as several zebra ran into the road in front of me in panic looking over their shoulders to see if the danger was following them. I discovered that a pride of lion had taken down a zebra from that herd behind thick shrub in the distance. I stayed for a while. Occasionally a lion would appear from the thicket with a zebra leg; another lion appeared moments later with the tail and so on….
The day seemed to get hotter as the hours passed. I stopped to watch an elephant herd with babies in tow; giraffe by the dozens, amazing birds and so much more. By the time I was fifteen kilometers from camp - tired and hot and ready to check into my riverside fixed tent in Lower Sabie Camp and have a cold cocktail - I had just over an hour to spare before the camp gates closed.
Ahead on the H-10 I saw a stopped car. I said aloud, to no one other than myself, as I approached the car, “The only thing I am willing to stop for now is wild dog”.
I slowly rolled up on the car that had a single male occupant and asked, “What do you see?” He said, “There are some wild dog sleeping in the tall grass.”
I shook my head in disbelief. There was no choice. I had to stay regardless of how hot or how tired or how much I was anticipating a cocktail! Wild dogs are so rarely seen.
I sat roadside in my car for almost an hour; just myself and that guy in his car in front of me. The grass was tall but occasionally I saw the twitching of an ear or tail of the wild dog that were sleeping in the tall grass. I took a multitude of pictures of an ear or the tip of a tail as evidence that I had indeed seen wild dog.
Eventually, I came to terms with the fact these critters were not going to awaken from their slumber and I really needed to move on towards camp.
The very minute I put the car in reverse to back away from my sight-mate, all hell broke loose. I had no idea what was happening. There was no time to get the proper lens on my camera or to even think. Wild dogs were everywhere coming from seemingly all directions each vocalizing loudly. As they did, the babies in the den - which come to find out was what myself and this gentleman were watching - awoke in loud vigor. Babies and adults were running about making all kinds of noises. The adults – I later determined - were returning from a hunt. They were regurgitating food for the young, pooping aside the road, yelling and screaming. The scene was utter chaos.
I sat there in the car with one hand on the gear shift still in reverse scrambling for my camera. The chaos in my brain mirrored the chaos the dogs.
The pictures I did manage to take reflect the hectic situation in that none are great! But they are better than the tail and ear shots of the den prior to the adults arriving!
The dogs eventually dispersed, and I headed to my great river view tent in Lower Sabie Camp.
I sat there on the deck of my tent with my cold Savanah Dry watching the sun set reflecting on my day as the guinea fowl scrambled for their nightly roosting tree near the river. A leopard kill; a lion Kill; and a huge pack of wild dog. Life just doesn’t get much better!
That was the best ear picture before the gang arrived!
Shooting with a zoom when I didn't need a zoom; mayhem!
The best shot I got..., he was the only still one...