Thursday, February 10, 2011

Panthera pardus

There are multiple reasons for going on holiday; getting away from the weather, the house, the neighbors, the job, etc. or to enjoy going to the beach, the vacation house, a favorite place, view animals, an exotic location, a new and wild experience, etc.

In this particular case we had left extremely hot weather, left all the jobs and volunteer work behind, flown to Durban, driven to the animal reserves (think national park areas), and spent time self-driving ourselves around viewing birds, flowers, scenery, and wild animals. I’m thinking that there is something in the wild adrenalin rush when you are the prey.

This segment of our adventure began in the Ithala Game Reserve. We began each day with our schedule flexible, depending on Zane’s need for naps. When all seemed clear we loaded up into the rental (unfortunately not 4WD) and headed out for a 3-hour trip. The route we turned into was not marked as requiring 4WD, but it should have been.

I’ve used this picture in a previous segment but it is worth another look. Due to the amount of rain this year the waterfalls were spectacular, the grass was tall and the animals were well hidden. We took a lot of bird and flower photos.

We got about halfway into our loop down a narrow, one way dirt track when we found a dam / waterhole with a turn-around. Resting in the center of the area was a nice little herd of impala. They weren’t entirely pleased to see us. They had staked out a spot where they were safe with a clear line of sight in all directions and were reluctant to be chased away. Many of them were dozing.

We stopped and took all the pictures we wanted, and then drove slowly around them to head out and continue our drive.

And then the *%$# hit the fan. Kurt said, “There’s a leopard!” The adrenalin kicked in as we all said “Where?” He was stalking our herd of impala, looking for dinner.

It still amazes me that he spotted the cat. This photo, taken with all of the zoom I could get out of my 12X lens, shows a well-magnified view of what Kurt spotted. The leopard was lurking in a gully when we arrived on the scene and spoiled his stalk.

He* looked at us, looked at his dinner, and then disappeared…

…only to reappear a bit further to the right, behind a bit of grass.

He sprinted left to right across an open area – then disappeared. Becky, with Zane in mind, said “Let’s get out of here.” Kurt and I, basically macho, bloodthirsty, primitive, hunter-types wanted to stay to the end but were outvoted.

The unintended result of our driving away was we actually herded most of the impalas down the road, away from the hungry leopard. A few impala stopped along the way for that extra bite of grass. Only the leopard knows if he cornered an impala, but some of us were very sorry to think that we might have deprived the leopard of his dinner. The rest of us were very happy to have saved an impala. I’ll leave it to you to decide who was on which side.


* Sexing a leopard – you can step up and check it out yourself, or you can ask at the park headquarters.

No comments: