After an intravenous injection of coffee to shake away the last of the cobwebs from the night before, we set off from Bush Lodge to see what the bush had in store for us. The rains have brought with them the annual calving season for the impala and no matter how many times you have seen this common antelope before, one cannot help but stop to watch the fragile youngsters finding their feet in the big bad world. It is a shame to think of them as such a source of food but without their incredible breeding success, the Kruger area would be unable to sustain its reputed predator population. Putting their chances of survival to the back of our mind, we watched a small crèche of impala calves frolic in the grass while their mothers watched on.
It is very easy to get caught up in Big 5 fever out here and it is refreshing to spend some time viewing some of the smaller intricacies of the bush. We were lucky enough to get a rare view of Africa’s smallest carnivore and sat quietly as the band of Dwarf Mongooses plucked up enough courage to view us from their retreat. They always remind me of gummy bears and they are such good value to watch as they forage around the undergrowth for insects. These 2 seemed to be daring each other to venture closer to us as we sat enthralled by their antics. Ever alert and nervous of our presence, we soon left them to their own devices and headed onwards.
Soon after, my tracker, Zulu, skillfully spotted fresh leopard tracks on the road and we both got off the Land Rover to try and establish a direction. At the next T-junction, Zulu went one way and I went the other but within 30 seconds he was back saying that he had seen a herd of elephants in the road up ahead. Never one to pass up the opportunity of watching my favourite animals, I eagerly headed towards them. We had a high quality sighting of the herd and watched with delight as the calves tussled with each other and the whole herd slowly made their way past the Land Rover! Half way through the sighting, Zulu turned to me with a big smile on his face. He looked at me and nodded his head in the direction of a couple of straggling elephants. They were casually feeding at the base of a large Knobthorn tree and looked at peace with the world… My inability to spot what he had seen was causing him some amusement and he obviously didn’t want to alert the guests to his discovery just yet. I looked again, this time casting my eyes a little further up the tree. Sure enough, draped over the fork of the Knobthorn tree was a female leopard! She seemed totally unperturbed about the elephants below her as she gazed out from her vantage point. I took great pleasure in playing the same game with my guests and it also took them a while to see this rare spectacle. Zulu just sat on his tracker seat lapping up the praise with a contented grin on his face.
We watched her for about 10 minutes and finally worked out that it was the often illusive Little Bush Camp female who has a bit of a reputation for not being the most relaxed of cats. However, today she rewarded us with a great show, shifting her profile a few times in the tree and allowing us to snap away at every angle. Finally, with her modeling stint complete, she stood up, stretched and dismounted the tree with all the aplomb of an Olympic gymnast. Having had the best of the sighting and with other vehicles en route, we left her to the rest of the guys with great memories of a very special sighting.
Other treats were in store for us after we stopped for a celebratory coffee. Soon after continuing on with our morning drive, we chanced upon a rare opportunity to watch two Diedericks Cuckoos engage in their daily activities. A sneaky bird, this cuckoo chooses not to build its own nest, but to lay its eggs in other bird species’ nests and leave them to deal with the hassle of caring for its chicks (a behavior known as brood parasitism). The cuckoo’s egg closely mimics that of the host, and thus ensures that the alien chick is incubated and reared as their own!
Close to Bush Lodge we came across a lazy rhino and her calf. The female was a fine specimen with an unusually straight but huge horn. She expressed her contentment with the progression of the day so far with a huge yawn, much to our amusement, before settling down to another busy day of eating. We all decided that she had had a great idea and headed back to the lodge for a well earned breakfast and to toast (if you excuse the pun) another memorable safari at Sabi Sabi.