Sabi Sabi yesterday, today, tomorrow

herding cats

by Richard de Gouveia on September 2, 2013

“Rich for Kevin…you can make your approach…” the call came in over the radio as we waited patiently to get in to see Mahlathini and Little Bush female mating. The excitement started to course through my veins and the guests were oblivious to the amazing spectacle that they were about to witness…but little did I know that I was also in the dark as to what we were about to see…

leopards mating at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve while on safari

As I approached the sighting the two leopards had disappeared into some incredibly thick bush along the river. I asked Kevin what my best approach was and he said that I should try get down into the riverbed. I slipped my Land Rover into low range and made my way down the steep embankment into the riverbed and steered us toward where all chaos had just started to break loose. Mahlathini and Little Bush had stumbled upon Warthog Wallow and her cub on a baboon kill.

leopard at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve while on safari

Mahlathini immediately claimed the kill for himself and dragged the remains across the riverbed to go and feed in peace. Warthog Wallow shepherded her cub to safety before returning to the scene to see if there was anything left for her. The only thing she found was Little Bush who was scent marking and calling. The two females growled at one another and both were salivating heavily. I was not sure if this was going to end well or if the two would just go their separate ways or if the cub would be left out of the fray.

leopard cub at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

leopard and cub while on safari at Sabi Sabi

Little Bush backed down and moved away from Warthog Wallow who was now calling for her cub but the cub was frozen, hiding from danger but Little Bush moved closer and closer to the cubs hiding spot. Suddenly the cub launched itself up a thin tree hoping that it could flee the danger. Little Bush didn’t even flinch at the tiny cub moving up the tree and completely ignored it and carried on marking and calling as she went in search of her lover, Mahlathini.

leopard and cub while on safari at Sabi Sabi

leopard and cub while on safari at Sabi Sabi

leopard and cub while on safari at Sabi Sabi

I was completely blown away that none of the aggression shown by Little Bush to Warthog Wallow was transferred to the cub and it was almost as if the soft calls from Warthog Wallow had diffused the situation by explaining that she wasn’t trying to steal her man. The cub watched the intruder move off into the distance before deciding to reunite itself with its mother. They lay 20 metres from us as Warthog Wallow groomed and played with her cub. They both stopped intermittently to listen to the rustle of the bush as a hyena came to investigate the ruckus.

leopard and cub while on safari at Sabi Sabi

leopard and cub while on safari at Sabi Sabi

leopard and cub while on safari at Sabi Sabi

The immense emotion that was experienced during this sighting was pouring out of me as I sat dumbstruck staring at mother and cub going on about their normal everyday routine with absolutely no worry about us. The little cub was relaxed and took its cue from its mother and didn’t even spare us a look. What a fabulous day…what an amazing privilege…. 30 minutes later they both melted away in the thick undergrowth and we took our leave and went off to enjoy a refreshing sundowner.

 

BY: RICHARD DE GOUVEIA (LITTLE BUSH CAMP RANGER)
IMAGES BY: RICHARD DE GOUVEIA AND KEVIN POWER

 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

mi-anne azinger September 10, 2013 at 2:34 am

Hey Ranger Richard! These photos are gorgeous…that must be the little cub that eluded us! Guess this means Fred and I will have to return to Sabi Sabi!

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ranger rich September 11, 2013 at 8:15 am

Hey Mi-Anne!!! This is indeed the cub that was giving us the slip the whole time! Hope you guys are well! Looking forward to hearing when you guys are coming back… ;-)

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linda September 15, 2013 at 8:51 am

Do you think Warthog Wallow and Little Bush are related? Littermates or mother/daughter, etc. THanks heaps.

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tina greeff September 20, 2013 at 12:58 am

LOvely photos and stories on leopards.THey are truly magnificent animals.The cub is too cute.

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amy sabrin October 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Hey Rich and Kevin – these pictures are amazing. While we saw a lot of wonderful things on our safari, I wish we had seen something so exciting as this! We miss Sabi Sabi!

Amy from Washington

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jean campbell October 4, 2013 at 1:44 am

What a touching tribute! We were there in December ’08 and we wonder if this is the young female we saw then. Those are amazing pictures and narrative of the scene. Hope one day to return to this amazing place.

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heather chalmers October 6, 2013 at 12:35 am

Extraordinary story and images, Rich!

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