My radio crackles to life and a call from the lodge comes through. “Any ranger station on standby? There is a leopard on the deck and we need someone to go check it out.”
By “check it out” they are actually asking for a hard core ranger to chase the intruding cat away. Up for the challenge, I jump to my feet and dart off in the general direction of the marauding leopard. With caution I edge closer to the lodge deck and as I approach my eyes fall upon a scene that one will almost only find in the Sabi Sand. The intruder was in fact not one, but two leopards.
The scene playing out before me was not one of danger or predatory behaviour but one that was downright adorable and sweet. Two four-month-old leopard cubs were blissfully playing on the deck and amongst the chairs beside the plunge pool. They were completely unaware of my presence, or the two wide-eyed guests staring at me through the window pointing at the ‘killer-cats’. I savoured the moment for a minute or two, and then walked towards the front door to meet with the guests. I reassured them that no harm would come to them and if they followed me back to their rooms they would arrive unscathed. The leopard cubs did not even see us slip away and continued to play well into the afternoon. This is the beauty of the Sabi Sand.
I recently moved from my position as a guide in the Kruger National Park and took up the same position within the neighbouring Sabi Sand Reserve. The Kruger was my home for almost four years, where I saw myself grow not only as a guide but also as a young man. There is a special magic to that place and I will never forget the thrills I got to experience – like when I followed 28 lions on a hunt across the African bush! Those were special times that I will cherish forever, but in the same breath, change is good and keeps life exciting. The Sabi Sand is known as a haven for predators, and boy it has not disappointed!
Big game sightings are prolific and the interaction between different species of predators is unbelievable. A recent sighting that comes to mind was when we followed a wild dog throughout the afternoon – the single dog managed to catch a duiker very close to our vehicles, and in less than a minute two hyenas appeared on the scene and stole the hard working dog’s kill. As we sat watching in awe, things got even more intense as a huge male lion came rushing-in to claim the spoils and leave both the hyena and wild dog watching in hunger. Due to the density of predators in this area it proves to be a tough place for the smaller predators trying to survive.
One of the highlights at the moment is without a doubt the leopard cubs that come to play on the lodge deck – they provide guests with hours of pure viewing pleasure. Their mother, known in the area as Ravenscourt, grew up amongst the lodges, and she seems almost accustomed to people being in close proximity to her precious cubs. In fact, she has made a habit of giving birth within the perimeters of the lodge – most of her previous litters grew up playing around us. She understands that due to the presence of humans there are less predators within the lodge boundaries and therefore her cubs will be much safer.
I look forward to starting over in this beautiful place and can’t wait to get to know the dynamics of the lion prides and the individual animals in the Sabi Sand area. As my love for photography grows I will try as best to document their daily lives and I look forward to sharing my new journey and adventures with you. Stay tuned for some exciting times ahead.