June 2024

An Amazing Morning

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An Amazing Morning

What an amazing morning! We had headed out into the hills as the sun was coming up. The granophyre ridge was very mysterious with the thick mist. The columns of rock were shadowed with the rising sun behind them and the candelabra trees were like hands with fingers stretching into the hazy sky. We turned onto Granophyre Link. One usually has a great view over the park from on top of this hill, but this morning the mist only allowed us to see about fifty metres ahead. Water droplets were dropping from my eyebrows and eyelashes onto my face.

Up ahead I noticed an animal walking in the road. It looked like a small dog with a white tip to its tail. As we came closer, I realized that a side-striped jackal was standing in front of us. As soon as I saw it, I turned around and it realized that we were there and quickly ran into the long grass. We carried on down the hill and as we were approaching the drainage line at the bottom two honey badgers jumped out of the shrubbery into the road. They made a rattling sound when they saw the vehicle and then headed back into the vegetation.

One of the guides had called in on the radio saying that he had found the Zamani male leopard near an area that we know as the N4. We decided to head there, hoping to see him. When we got there, he was still walking around in the open area sniffing all sorts of scents on the ground. He was wandering all over the place. The sun was now dissolving the mist away and the light was great on the leopard. He was stunning! He then headed towards a small rocky outcrop. We would not be able to follow him there so we decided to go around to the other side of the ridge and try and relocate him on that side.

As we were going around the side of the ridge, we could hear impala alarm calls coming from the Gudzani Dam area. Just as we turned around the edge of the rocky area, we spotted two male lions lying in the open area up ahead. It was the Maputo male and his coalition partner, Xai-Xai. Maputo was lying with his head up, but Xai-Xai was completely asleep. Behind us, we could see the Zamani male leopard sitting on top of the rocks staring at the lions. We decided to stay with the lions as the leopard crept away from the area. One of our guides decided to follow the leopard while we stayed with the lions. Soon after that, we could hear impalas giving alarm calls from the area that the leopard was moving. The lions also heard these noises and Maputo became very interested. He stood up and crossed the rocky ridge looking for what could be causing the impalas to be alarmed. I could see the other guide a few hundred meters away, still with the leopard that was walking through the long grass. We decided to leave the area as we had had great views of both the leopard and the lions.

As we were heading off the other guide called on the radio saying that he had spotted a cheetah nearby where he had the leopard. We headed across to him and found the cheetah walking through the golden grass. The cheetah then saw an impala, but the antelope saw the cat and ran away. The cheetah then sat down staring at the retreating impala. As she sat there, she noticed movement to the south of her and then noticed the Maputo male lion walking around sniffing, trying to figure out what was going on with the impalas running around and snorting. While she was watching the lion in the distance, she was concentrating so much that she was not aware that the Zamani male leopard had seen the female cheetah. He then started stalking her in the long grass. Since her attention was totally on the lion in the distance, she did not notice the movement behind her. The leopard then leapt high into the air and rushed at the cheetah.

Fortunately for the cheetah, she saw the movement of the leopard as he jumped in the air and by the time the leopard got to where the cheetah was, she was gone. The leopard almost managed to touch the cheetah’s tail, but the cheetah was much faster than the leopard and managed to get away.

We followed on after the cheetah for a while and then decided to leave her and go and have a leg stretch and coffee break. After our break, we headed north. While we had been watching the whole leopard/lion/cheetah episode I had heard that one of the other guides had found a small pack of African wild dogs in the far north of the concession. It had been quite a while since the guides had left the wild dogs so we did not think that our chances were good of relocating them. Fortunately, when we got to the area, we found them resting in the shade watching some impalas and giraffes. We watched them for a short while and then decided to head back towards the lodge for something to eat. On the way back we also managed to see a few elephants.

What an amazing morning!