This morning I had to re-read my safari diary to remind me what else we saw:- multiple sightings of lion, two cheetah, an amazing hyena interaction, a honey badger with cub, massive buffalo herds, dozens of elephant, rhinos.....
But it will always be remembered for the SIX different leopard we saw (a personal record!).
On a cool, dark and drizzly day late in September I picked Thomas & Wendy up from the airport outside Nelspruit. Our first night in Kruger was at Bergendal in the south, so we descended down through the Crocodile River Gorge to enter at Malelane gate.
After spending 15 excited minutes on the bridge seeing our first elephant, hippo, crocodiles and many birds, we cleared the gate and started our game drive.
To be totally honest I wasn't expecting the first drive to be a particularly good one. The weather was miserable (thank goodness we were in a closed vehicle!) and this particular area of Kruger had been very quiet the last few times I had been through.
An hour later, my fears were being realised, when we spotted our first giraffe some distance ahead of us down the dirt road!
I coasted slowly down the road, not wanting to scare them away before we could get a good picture, and on the lookout on both sides to see if there were any other giraffe closer to us.......
And there on top of a rock I saw a leopard!!
Perhaps the giraffe could sense potential danger, they moved off very quickly as we got closer, although I will admit that we weren't paying much attention to them at that stage!
The leopard came out and sat up for us once the giraffe were out of sight, and for the next 10 minutes we watched, admired and waited........
All the while only a couple of other cars came past, spent a minute or so and then drove off again.
Two more cars heading south towards us, stopped about 100m down the road. We couldn't see what they were observing so once it became obvious that our leopard was settled in on the rock we went to see what else was going on.
On the opposite side of the road, in clear view but much further away.......
Still only 100m or so from our first leopard!!
We didn't have long. It came down the tree within a couple of minutes and started moving south, parallel to the road but out of sight.
I took a chance and we reversed back to our previous position next to leopard number 1.
And from his vantage point he obviously spotted the second leopard moving past on the other side from us.
We only had a minute of him staring straight over us when he leaped down the rock and bounded towards and past us to cross the road and disappear himself.
Wendy who was the only one of us not focusing through a camera view finder got an incredible adrenalin rush seeing that leopard coming straight for her before it swerved to avoid the car.
What an incredible experience!! Two leopards, next to each other, within an hour of entering Kruger. That had never happened to me before!
We were on a total high from then on.
Great sightings of rhino and elephant followed.
And then our THIRD leopard of the afternoon / safari.
It was getting quite dark by now but she was posing so beautifully in this Marula tree for all of us.....
It was obviously an excellent day for leopards to be out looking for food from high vantage points.
Having seen three leopards on the first afternoon game drive of the safari (the first time for me) I was not going to go out of my way to find leopard on the rest of the trip.
As I mentioned right at the top we had some excellent sightings of many other animals, but the leopards just kept on popping up!
None of the subsequent leopard sightings could compete in excitement or quality to the first one, but on any typical safari they would have all been classified as good or excellent.
Just to prove the point, here are the next 3 leopards we saw......
|Day 2 - leopard no. 4|
|Day 3 - leopard no.5|
|Day 3 - leopard no.6|
Many thanks to Thomas and Wendy for coming on safari - I wouldn't have been there if they hadn't, and thanks to Thomas for contributing some great photos of those leopards.