I trust all our readers out there have had a lovely month. The Leopard Mountain team has had some exciting moments lately ranging from cool camera trap photos – amazing up close Elephant sightings, heart-racing Leopards and Lion encounters and some relaxed mountain top drinks breaks with great weather. There’s no telling what’s around the corner when in the bush and each day seems to present a new adventure.
I’m going to start this month with the word that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue, “Leopard”. These elusive cats casually patrol through our reserve oblivious to the trail of delight and despair they cause our rangers and guests. The bushveld has been a scene of golden brown grass and scattered trees as the dry winter forces the vegetation to wait for the coming rains. With this comes pros and cons in finding the secretive Leopards – they blend in almost perfectly into their surroundings yet the grass is short and visibility good giving us an advantage in spotting them. Recently a female has been seen in one location on several evenings, quietly hiding her cub as we watch from a distance, an unforgettable experience. A big male was caught passing one of our camera traps just outside of game drive time causing a few laughs as talk around the fire turned to “what ifs” and “if only”. The recent tracks and territorial calls on morning drives have literally had everyone on the edge of their seats. As the spotlights of our rangers strategically scan the bush for eyeshine, the Leopards sneakily move through thickets, hilltops and riverbeds watching us as we drive around in hope of a brief encounter with them. With the sightings improving greatly we can assume that Zululand’s most adept hunters are becoming more and more relaxed in their territories and we hope to see them more in the months to come. On a closing note a wonderful sighting was reported of a female Leopard crossing the road only to be followed by three fur balls, blue eyes and fluffy tails, ensuring that the Leopard population on the reserve is thriving and new generations will soon be taking the place of the older individuals we see today.
I always find it interesting how everything in nature is linked, like a chain of events we were once a part of before civilization took over. On drive our rangers have learnt to look and listen for the slightest changes in animal behavior. Birds are great indicators of where other game may be. If you have ever heard the harmonious racket of a disturbed flock of Helmeted Guinea Fowl or the screeching of Oxpeckers as they fly off from a White Rhino, you will understand how important they are. On one drive we rounded a corner and heard crows squawking. On further investigation we noticed they had flown across some open plains towards us. Natural curiosity took over and as we crossed the plains we noticed a Tawny Eagle perched in a tree and just beyond we could see the eerie outlines of vultures against the rising sun – the hunt was on. A predator has been here. Some slow driving and watchful eyes led us directly to our prize, a male Cheetah lying contentedly on a mound overlooking his territory. We sat admiring him for a while before he stood up, scent marked and disappeared into the plains. Whilst driving in the river bed the chatter of alarm calling Vervet Monkeys transformed a scenic drive through the forest into an exciting game of watch and wait. We located the silvery bodies and shiny black faces of the monkeys as they stood at the tops of the trees on full alert, indicating a predator at ground level. Suddenly through our binoculars we noticed the golden shadow of a male Lion walking straight towards us in the riverbed. As he walked past with an omnipotent aura we held our breath and he sauntered off to a sunny spot to lie down. Once again a smaller species had led us to the grand finale.
As far as our bigger herbivores are concerned, the sightings have been great. There is no describing the feeling of a herd of Elephants walking past en route to the waterhole as we watch from the comfort of our vehicle. These colossal mammals are more than entertaining as they throw splashes of water onto themselves and enjoy a well earned drink after a day of feeding in the African sun. We are also extremely happy to see our Buffalo population doing so well, with some herds reaching over a hundred individuals. We have been lucky enough to enjoy their presence along with White Rhino and plains game as they move along their winter grazing areas. Some amazing Black Rhino sightings have kept everyone in awe as these critically endangered species continue to share a special place in our reserve.
All in all we are privileged to witness the experiences we do and happy to share these amazing moments with all you bush lovers out there.
Until next month from the ranging team
Allow yourself an indulgent pampering while you unwind in the tranquil setting that is Leopard Mountain Lodge.
Really experience Africa being professionally guided through Big5 territory, within a pristine endangered species reserve.
Join this intimate encounter with Rambo, Rachael and Jabulani, Learning about their history, enjoy touching and feeding these majestic giants.
Relax, unwind and rejuvenate under the African skies