Pretty much exactly what the title says.
Let’s start with the ‘leopards’ bit of it all. I came here desperately hoping… PRAYING.. that I’d catch at least a fleeting glimpse of one. By the end of this week, my ‘leopard count’ has totalled to eight. EIGHT!! I know people who’ve spent years in the wild and they’ve only seen one or two, so I’m pretty much thanking the Leopard Gods at this stage, because nobody REALLY gets this lucky. And the first leopard that we saw at this location wasn’t just any leopard. It was…. wait for it….:
In a tree.
EATING A DEAD IMPALA IT HAD KILLED AND THEN DRAGGED UP THAT TREE!!
Hold up. WHAT!?!?
Even the guide had never seen anything like it. The coolest part was that the leopard was so focused on her meal that we became pretty much irrelevant and stayed for a good hour getting different angles of the action. Even though we did see more leopards after, nothing quite came close to the awesomeness of this one.
This was one of my favourite weeks to date. The brand new lodge that we stayed at was the perfect mix between modern / luxurious and wild. The polished rooms overlooked a water hole which was constantly surrounded by diverse wildlife and the sounds you hear at night as a result are insane:
Our guide was also one of the best to date. Incredible knowledge, tons of fun and wasn’t shocked by the amount of sh*t we talk during game drives and in between takes. After 4 months together, it’s safe to say that the crew and I have no boundaries and conversations range from farts to superpowers to rap songs to hipbones (don’t ask). At one point the guide even asked me to sit on the ‘tracker seat‘ at the front of the vehicle, thinking I’d be scared as we got super close to an elephant. But I LOVED it and ended up staying for the whole afternoon:
Speaking of getting close to elephants…. meet Morgan– the wild elephant who loves the lodge and often pokes his nose into the bar looking for lemons and other goodies. Thankfully presenters were not on the menu that day:
What WAS eaten alive that day was a honey badger. They’re elusive, hard to spot and too brave for their own good, so sometimes they get clapped by leopards or other animals in self defence. I was shocked by how big and sharp the claws were – almost disproportional to the rest of its body. I can see why you’d want to kill one if it were attacking you…. :
We later came across baby hyenas (sooo cute! Like little fluffy dogs. Warning: DO NOT PET) who used the dead honey badger as some sort of toy. Strange, but they weren’t even eating it… literally just playing with it:
Another kill that happened that night was made by a lion …and it was a porcupine. This particular lion was looking very thin and in desperate need of a meal so he could not have given less f*cks as we sat right next to him at night and watched him consume his first dinner in days as hyenas circled him, hoping to get some remains.
Tracking lions at night will always remain one of the most surreal experiences for me. I will now try very hard to describe what it feels like to hear the deep, deafening roar of a lion right next to you in complete darkness:
VJFJDCGBFTRSDFGIUKDESDCFGHOLIRUEYRTSDXGCFVGHUIYTRERTRYGJHBVGCFDXRTFGHBKJDSRXGCVJHBJKHGJFHDGSXGCFVGHJFHDFXCHGVHJGJVJHGCVHBVGHGGHGCHVHBVGHVGCGVHGCGVCGCGCGC OH DEAR LAWWWWWWDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And then see his ghostly shadow walking past you as he kicks up clouds of dust and continues calling:
There was a whole story, you see. Djuno (pictured above) was the dominant male of the area. We followed his calls and got hauntingly beautiful shots of him interacting with another male nearby and then going out for a hunt. Then, as we’re following him, we randomly come across THREE other lions! And they’re following Djuno too!
They’ve just come from another area and their mission was to take over. Djuno aint having any of that sh*t, so he be like ‘Piss of, my turf‘ with his calls. And the 3 others are sneaky bastards so they try to outsmart him. But Djuno’s the cool kid on da block, so he walks proud. Until he can really sense the danger. SOMEHOW… don’t ask how… the 3 lions end up in our camp area next to the lodges... so we find ourselves right back where we started . They then continue their mission and both them and Djuno run off somewhere far into the distance. Holy moley, with the speed these animals move at, they might as well be in Bangladesh by now. Keeping up is HARD. But totally worth it and it’s the most exhilarating and exciting night I’ve had here to date (and I’ve been to All You Can Eat Sushi, so that says a lot) .
Ps. Here’s me serenading the lodge owner in my own (terrible) version of a traditional African welcoming dance :
Next Time: Some of the biggest and best preserved cave paintings in Africa, fancaaaay accommodation, elephant stories, getting close to more exciting wildlife and meeting the African jewellery designer who styles the World’s royalty !