leopard crawl

Warthog Wallow lies in the cool riverbed, trying hide from the heat of the day, as her 2 cubs lie suckling on her teats. Her brain is as still as a meditating monk but her senses are as sharp as ever, listening and smelling for any potential danger to her or her tiny cubs. The cubs begin to play around her, stretching and building their tiny muscles to prepare them for a lifetime of hunting and survival. Her tail twitches, sending the cubs pouncing to apprehend this new toy.

leopard crawl while on safari at sabi sabi

As the sun begins to set, she begins to groom her spotted coat, licking her paws and running them over her head as if she were adding gel to set the hairstyle for the evening. She yawns as she stands, stretching her powerful muscles as if going through her yoga routine and gives off one soft call to her cubs, letting them know that she is heading out, which sends them scrambling off into their den where they will lie silently waiting for her return.

She sets out on her evening hunt, walking with purpose with the wind in her face, stopping periodically to smell the air and listen for any potential prey. She can hear the faint rumble of an engine but takes no notice. As the vehicle comes closer, she turns to see the awestruck faces and the pointed cameras of the guests that have just arrived with Michell. She turns again and carries on down the road as if no one was there.

She stops again, lifting her head to take in the smells of the bush and is greeted by the smell of impala. She scans the horizon and spots a small herd in front of her. She scours the bush trying to see what cover she can use to get close enough to her quarry. There is no rush, as she knows that wasted energy and an unsuccessful hunt may put her cubs survival at risk, so she takes her time to figure out her best options.

leopard at Sabi sabi while on safari

Her tail begins to twitch as the impala start making their way toward the road about 100 metres ahead of her. This is her chance. She stoops low using the long grass as cover and begins to crawl forward trying to get in a position to ambush her prey. Her padded feet muffle any sound as she feels the sand sink between her toes. Her muscles quiver as she moves effortlessly forward. The impala suddenly stop, staring in her direction as if intuition has given them the upper hand but she stops immediately, one foot still raised off the floor. She cannot move, as the slightest movement will give away her position. Seconds feel like hours, as her body remains motionless.

leopard crawl while on safari at sabi sabi

The impala eventually relax again and continue towards the road and she continues to her ambush point. Her muscles are as coiled as a spring, waiting patiently as the impala close the distance. Twenty metres… fifteen metres… ten metres… Her back legs start to twitch in anticipation of her launch towards the unsuspecting impala.

In an instant she is off; the impala turn fast and hit full speed in no time and she is right behind them. She starts to close the gap as her burning muscles propel her forward at 25 metres per second, closer and closer. Her breathing is hard, short and fast, her heart beating like drums in her chest but still she is not close enough to grab the young impala that is no more than 3 metres in front of her. She pushes as hard as she can but she is reaching the end of her limits…she pulls back and watches the impala run off, snorting their alarm calls as they go. The puffs of mist as she pants show just how much effort she expended but this was not to be her hunt. Without judgement she picks herself up and begins to move off in search of more opportunities.

leopard crawl while on safari at sabi sabi

by: Richard de Gouveia (Little Bush Camp ranger)
Images by: Michell Steinberg


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