July 2021

A most welcome welcome


A most welcome welcome

Covid-19, what a disruptive chapter this has been for the world, for us as humans, for business and especially the Travel and Leisure industry. Having recently spent too much time without any guests to guide, as a direct result of this pandemic, I was so excited to finally get a private guide and his guest who were determined to not let anything stop them coming on safari. Upon picking them up from their late flight and chatting with them on the way back to the lodge, I listened as they told me the horrors and frustrations of being locked down in the UK, and how special it was just to be out in the fresh air with nothing but pure pristine wild areas around them. So, without wasting too much time settling the guest into the lodge, we made a plan to get out into the bush as soon as possible.

We left the lodge in the late afternoon, and being winter here right now the sun starts to set rather early, but despite this the birds were out in force singing and chirping away while impala and nyala hung around a small waterhole near the lodge, lapping up the last rays of the afternoon sun. Finally, we were out and away from all the restrictions and worries of before! 

It's amazing how Mother Nature just knows what is needed to heal our souls. This afternoon was no exception, and as we drove round the corner from the lodge, filled with excitement and still chatting, I glanced to my left and I could not believe my eyes… There was a young adult female leopard just sitting upright on an earth mound, right next to the vehicle! I was so excited, simultaneously bringing the vehicle to a stop, pointing out the cat, and getting my words out in time, fearing that this magnificent cat would flee if we made any undue sound or movement. To my absolute relief, this elusive, solitary, secretive leopard remained sitting there looking at us, then looking around her territory for any hunting opportunities. I turned to my guests to express my excitement and saw them also blown away by this sighting. It was the last thing we had expected to see, let alone to see her so relaxed, and almost as if she was excited to see guests again and had come out to welcome us!  A ray of golden light came out from the shade, catching the leopard’s eyes and causing them to glisten. Despite my guest and her private guide both being into photography, neither had their cameras up, both were so entranced at this sighting. I quietly suggested grabbing a quick picture even if it was just for a memory of their welcome to Zimbabwe. 

Photo by Nicholas Vounnou

We spent several minutes watching the young leopardess before she zeroed in on some distant sounds. She slowly got up, looked back at us momentarily, as if to say, "Please excuse me, my dinner is calling…" and off she went. As we started to move off, we could see far away in the distance what she had been hearing, a herd of impala moving through the thick vegetation, making them a great hunting opportunity for the leopard.  

By Mark Friend
Field Guide