sabi sabi ranger stories
As one of the newer Rangers at Sabi Sabi, I often find myself wondering will I ever see some of the things I hear rangers that have been here longer telling their guests or discussing among themselves when they’re comparing sightings of a particular leopard or pride of lions. The past few days I have had two sightings that I will remember forever and share with guests and other rangers.
The first sighting I shared with you last week, the second follows...
On a wonderfully clear spring afternoon I left the lodge with a group of guests on their first safari ever! Bubbling with excitement, they mentioned that one of the things they really wanted to see was leopard and wild dog. A tall order anywhere, except at a well stocked zoo. I thought I’d take the risk of trying to follow up on the African Wild Dogs that I’d seen this morning. The risk was that I knew from experience that because the wild dog has such a large range, and has a tendency to cover large distances a day to fully utilize this range, it was unlikely that we would find them.
After doing every road in the area, surrounding the pan at which we'd seen the pack of wild dogs this morning, Richard, my tracker, had not seen any tracks that were clear enough to follow. What now? The guests were still enjoying the experience as we had seen a lot of birds and walked to a small herd of Zebra gently grazing close to three female Giraffe. But, I really wanted them to see at least one of their special requests on their first safari.
I was about to make my way to an area where three other rangers were trying to track a leopard from a set of fairly fresh tracks. Putting plan B into action was interrupted by the distinct alarm barks of a troop of Baboons. The barks seemed to be coming from a deep drainage line. In the top of a tall Jackal Berry tree, supported by the clay rich banks of the drainage line, we could see two of the baboons, barking away and staring intently towards an open area on the other side of the drainage line.
Making our way round to the open area we could all imagine the pack of wild dog running down some Impala. When we reached the open area we could see nothing! Richard's sharp eyes picked up some movement on top of a distant termite mound. Binoculars revealed a female Cheetah with one cub! The guests immediately added cheetah to their wish list. I drove off-road towards the mound to reveal a stalking cheetah and a motionless cub watching and learning.
Suddenly the quickest land mammal goes from 0 to 100km/h in less than five seconds. The blur of motion ends with the panting cheetah’s canines sunk into the neck of a Blue Duiker, a small solitary antelope, which moments before had been minding its own business in the shade of an Acacia tree. When the duiker stops kicking the cheetah calls her cub using bird-like chirping sounds, the cheetah does not have vocal chords capable of making roaring sounds. The cheetah has sacrificed a lot for speed, it is so specialised that its body is not suited to fighting. Cheetah lose more than half of their kills to stronger predators such as lion, leopard and hyena. Even a group of vultures can chase a cheetah of its kill. Still exhausted from the chase the female drags the duiker into thick vegetation growing under a fallen Marula tree. The female lets her cub start eating while she recovers and warily scans the surrounding area for any sign of danger.
It is time for a sunset drink to celebrate this viewing of nature at its most thrilling! I use this opportunity to explain to the guests how lucky they have been to witness such an event. I tell them that I also have not witnessed such a sighting before in my time here, and I have been on quite a few more game drives than they. You never know what nature will do next...