Francois Fourie, Field Guide at Singita Sabi Sand, had the great fortune of spotting the female Ravenscourt leopard last week, while in action defending her young. The Sabi Sand Reserve is well known for frequent leopard sightings (as well as a general diversity of game), since the big cats are attracted to the camouflage afforded them by the lush riverine flora. You can read regular updates on wildlife sightings in the area by following our fascinating monthly Guides’ Diaries.
It was once again one of those mornings that will stick with me forever. We are so privileged to wake up in this amazing place every day and get to see such incredible things; this morning just proved that we really have the best job in world.
We headed out from the lodge with our main aim being to spot a leopard. We headed south and not even ten minutes into the excursion, our tracker Sandile saw the spoor of a female leopard and her cub. We knew she must be in the area because there had been a report that she had killed a young impala lamb the day before. She wasn’t on the site of the kill, instead there were plenty of hyena tracks and a drag mark suggesting that she lost her lamb to a hungry pack.
We followed the fresh tracks and about 15 minutes later we found her and the cub with another impala lamb hoisted in a marula tree. Lurking hopefully at the base of the tree was an opportunistic hyena, while the Ravenscourt female lay not too far from the tree keeping a wary eye on the predator. Suddenly the cub decided to come down from his perch and with that motion the hyena promptly got to his feet, most likely assuming that the leopard had dropped the kill. In the blink of an eye, the protective female was up and flying to attack the hyena that was threatening her cub, successfully warding him off. It was amazing to see how quickly and naturally her mothering instinct kicked in within a matter of seconds and I will remember it along with some of the greatest moments experienced in the bush.
The African bush never fails to surprise; a sentiment we observed from a small stagnant pool along the N’wanetsi River. It was a routine drive that turned out to be one of my most memorable. With the rains still to arrive, the majority of game concentrated around the few small pools along the river. This sets the scene, as opportunists make the most of the abundance of prey around this precious source of life.
We had often seen the lion prides along this particular stretch of the river as it holds water throughout the year, and during the dry season is often the only area where animals can quench their thirst. But what we didn’t expect to see was what transpired next. A massive sixteen-foot crocodile ambushed a herd of unsuspecting zebra which were drinking at the water’s edge. As the dust settled, we witnessed a young zebra being wrenched into the water by his front right leg and dragged into the middle of the pool.
The zebra put up a valiant fight and wrestled with the crocodile; biting, kicking and frantically trying to free itself from the crocodile’s crushing grip. The crocodile conserved it’s energy, applying five thousand pounds of pressure to the zebra’s leg with no intention of letting go. Eventually the zebra started to tire, it’s head dropped and it seemed to rapidly lose condition in the baking heat. The zebra dug deep and with one final effort managed to free itself. The crocodile loosened it’s hold and the zebra seized the opportunity to make a dash for the bank. It hoisted itself out of the water, but it was then when we realized the extent of the damage caused by the crocodile’s powerful jaws.
The zebra was fatally injured and now out of the water and exposed to the heat, it was in real danger being both exhausted and dehydrated. To our relief the animal eventually rolled back into the water and surrended itself to the crocodile. It was a tough ordeal to observe but this is how life in the African bush unfolds and the death of this one animal brought life for many others.
Keep up with James Suter as he brings the wild ever closer with his weekly Singita blog series.
Singita is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the African wilderness.
We believe that our untouched and expansive surrounding and the exceptional selection of wildlife – found in Singita Sabi Sand, Singita Kruger National Park, Singita Grumeti Reserves and the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve (home to Singita Pamushana Lodge) – are among our greatest assets.
We go to great lengths to ensure that the experiences we create, to showcase our beautiful reserves, are sustainable and don’t place undue pressure on the surroundings.
At Singita we live by our mantra and therefore we aim to only touch the earth lightly. This approach ensures that we don’t impose ourselves on nature, we don’t stand above it and we certainly don’t stand apart from it. Instead we immerse ourselves, and our guests, in the awe-inspiring environments surrounding the various Singita lodges and camps.
The sustainable Singita approach consists of three key ingredients:
Firstly we pride ourselves on continually creating opportunities where guests are able to interact with their natural surroundings in a way that does not adversely affect the surrounding wilderness. Our philosophy of touching the earth lightly is threaded through every part of our offering and every aspect of a Singita guest’s experience.
Secondly we’ve implemented a fewer beds in larger areas programme. This has significantly reduced the impact guests have on the surrounding environment. It has also created an incredibly intimate experience for these guests.
Lastly we are actively involved in local communities. Through our initiatives, and the support of generous guests, we assist these communities by developing and introducing forms of sustainable prosperity. This sustainable prosperity results in the best type of social upliftment – the kind that allows communities to maintain and celebrate their dignity, culture and heritage.