The cold bite of winter is starting to grip the bush as the first cold front passes through. With all the guests making their way to the vehicle for morning safari, Solly, my tracker, hears a noise in the distance. It’s the unmistakeable noise of leopards mating and they are right by Little Bush Camp. I hurry the guests into the vehicle, everyone tucking their blankets around them to keep warm and we head in the direction of the noise.
Leopards mate every 15 minutes for 5 days but the sessions are a matter of seconds before they pull away and begin to rest again. When we got to the area it was now a waiting game. With the two Little Bush Camp vehicles first to respond, we strategically placed the vehicles in different areas, turned off the engines and waited for the dawn chorus to be disrupted by the violent noises of these mating cats.
Everyone was quiet, listening intently, when suddenly the silence was broken by the low, deep throated noise of the male mating followed by the growls as the female kicked him off. We head straight there and found the dominant male from the eastern section of the reserve mating with the female that lives around Little Bush Camp. She had cubs about 5 months ago but they must have been killed and she has come back into oestrus to again try and successfully raise a new batch of cubs in this unforgiving environment. Infant mortality is around 60% in the cats and she will have to work hard to keep the next litter alive.
That afternoon we returned hoping again to see these two in action and we found them right where we had left them that morning and they were still going at it. They had literally flattened a huge patch of red grass from all the activity, which allowed for a better opportunity to watch this amazing interaction. The female instigates the mating by growling, rubbing herself up against the male and presenting herself, he would then mount her and the copulation would last a few seconds before he retracts his barbed penis from her causing her pain. She would then spin around and try hit him to get him off. The guests were spellbound by this amazing interaction and we sat for an hour watching the two of them go at it. By this stage he was already tired and had to turn down some of her advances in order to regain some energy for the next round.
Another incredible day at Sabi Sabi and it was all topped off by a sundowner while watching an amazing sunset over the Drakensberg mountain range. All I can say is WOW.