The wheels of the tiny plane touched down on the narrow Singita runway situated in the Sabi Sand game reserve. My heart skipped a beat and my excitement levels were in overdrive. I was back in the bush.   Stepping off the plane, I felt the familiar humid air mixed with all the organic smells of the African wild.  I couldn’t wait to jump into the Land Rover and start exploring.

Installed in one of the spacious suites at Singita Ebony Lodge, I set up my equipment and spread out onto the deck which overlooks the Sand River. There were massive floods a month before my arrival and so the river looked amazing, meandering through the lush vegetation as it flowed gently to the east. An elephant bull that had braved the heat of the day to quench his thirst at the water’s edge, greeted me. Leaving him to his business I made my way up to the top garage and the adventure began.

Before I knew it I was in my vehicle heading toward the western section, an almost mystical part of the concession, densely vegetated with large trees and winding tracks. This was the area where a large male leopard had been recently seen with its kill concealed in a suitable tree. I located the remains of the carcass, which was a young male kudu, and investigated the area. There were scratch marks left by the leopard while ascending the tree and the leftovers of the kudu were on the floor below; but no sign of the animal.  It was hot and he had possibly moved closer to the water and found an appropriate place to retreat for the day.

When it was cooler I headed back, armed with my camera, hoping to get a shot of this elusive animal. Darkness was approaching and I was worried about the fading light.

Suddenly a familiar voice crackled on the radio. Another guide had located the animal and I made my way to his position. Pulling off the track I switched off the vehicle. All of a sudden there he was – an attractive large male leopard that is regularly seen in the area. Holding my breath I positioned myself as he walked straight toward the vehicle, walking a meter from my lens showing no sign of fear. I had been at Singita for no more than a couple of hours and already spotted my first leopard. What a fantastic launch of my adventure.

James Suter, this week, trekking across the rugged terrain of Singita Sabi Sand.

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