One of the great privileges of being a guide in an area like the Sabi Sand is our incredible viewing of large predators and their interactions with the various species of prey and other predators that might compete for the same resources.
And while I urge guests and guides alike not to just rush out and accrue lists and ticks on these specific sightings, there can be no doubt that for me very little compares to getting to spend time with Africa’s large cats and canids.
Being part of an area like the Greater Kruger National Park, that has seen protection for wildlife in some form for well over a hundred years, allows encounters and interactions with wildlife not often achieved in newly established concessions or reserves, as wildlife has simply not had time to get used to the fact that we are not a threat and that humans in game viewing vehicles in particular are of no major consequence to their days, and as such allows truly incredible experiences where animals allow us to look in on very secretive and special parts of their usually not very often glimpsed lives.
Things like seeing mating leopards (which may I add took me almost five years of guiding to see), having a pack of wild dogs denning on your reserve and watching their month-old pups emerge and interact with the world around them for the first time.
On one of my recent morning safari drives my guests and I were treated to one of the most incredible experiences I have had in over a decade of guiding and I will try to do it what little justice I can:
We had set off from Boulders lodge on a very chilly morning where the air seemed to hold your breath as we clutched on to our jackets, scarves and blankets full of excitement at the morning to come. We had stopped to listen to the dawn chorus of hippos and watch as the sun’s first ruby red rays touched across the waters of the Sand River, when our tracker Rebel spotted some fresh tracks of a male leopard, and thus began one of the most ridiculous sequences of events.
After driving not even 200 hundred feet down the river we came across a large herd of elephants that were enjoying a sand bath and feeding on either side of the road around us, and before we could even start to point to everything going on around us we suddenly heard a male leopard’s rasping call further west, very close to where the elephants were feeding. So, we hesitantly left the herd of elephants and quickly came across the male leopard responsible for the territorial calls, but he was not alone! In fact he was with a female, and one he was mating with.
After spending about an hour watching in awe at how we were allowed to be part of such a secretive and special ritual, we again had pandemonium as suddenly a pack of wild dogs appeared from nowhere, hunting a very unlucky female bushbuck who was not only chased by the great long distance athletes but then into a mating pair of leopards who both gave short chases before realising they were not the only hunters and hastily beating a retreat from the excitable pack of canines.
I turned to my guest at this point and for what seemed like the 50th time that drive told them how lucky we had been and how I was still in a state of minor shock at all we had seen in a mere 1 kilometre long drive.
After recapping stories and sharing pictures over a cup of hot coffee later that morning on a lovely stretch overlooking a beautiful sycamore fig tree along the river, one of my guests asked me with a smile, “Well we are intrigued what you have in store for us next?”
To which I could only laugh and reply, “Whatever the bush has planned for us!”