An amazing encounter on foot

Kruger National Park | May 2020

On a morning training exercise my colleagues and I were dropped off at Pony Pan from where we had to make our way back south towards the lodge. It started as a quiet morning as it was a bit cold which led to less activity of animals. We were enjoying the experience and had much to look at, from different animal tracks, grasses and all the interesting trees.

Within an hour of walking we decided to take a short break at Dumbana Pools where a hippo sighting was expected. When we arrived there we spotted a young male leopard watching us from only 40m away. I was so amazed by how relaxed he was and not showing any signs of being uncomfortable with us. Everybody was moving around trying to get a good view of him as he jumped from rock to rock playing and looking for any potential food in between the rocks. He was a young leopard and they don’t always need to bring down a big animal for food. It was our first time to actually watch a leopard be playful with people close by looking at him. A few minutes later he went towards a hamerkop nest trying to reach into where the chicks were, but it wasn’t an easy thing for him to do.

I had so many questions in my mind after looking at his reactions towards people on foot. With so much respect we slowly started walking away from him. I turned and looked back at everyone and I could see the emotion and excitement on their faces. If this is how animals have so much trust in human beings then we should also fight and strive for their peace and protection in their natural habitat, and hopefully they live long to the next generations.

Photograph by Brian Rode