Safari adventure in Botswana - Leopard sighting
On one of several African safaris, this one in the Okavango Delta, our guide frequently pointing to the high points of interest mentioned it was getting late as he beaconed at the slowly sinking sun. I remember as our group was marveling at a pride of lions, ‘brothers’ as we were told by the guide, spectacular lions with black manes doing what they do best, resting on the floor of the savannah. Blending in with the high grass, barely visible except for the occasional black manes one would see as they turned over, yawned and then fell back on their side continuing their R&R. Suddenly a call came over the guide’s radio. A leopard sighting! The guide asked if we wanted to go, it was late in the evening, the sun was beginning to set. The guide explained that it was a ways off and the leopard, as elusive as it was, may have moved from the spot by the time we got there. Unanimously, we all agreed to take that chance.
We began to tear across the savannah, only able to drive on the existing trails. Drivers are not allowed to make their own trails – not in this neck of the woods! As we bounced from side to side in our open Land Rover, getting closer to the leopard every moment, the sun sank further and further. And then…..no, not the leopard, but we saw four lionesses’ taking down a zebra. The zebra was barely alive, with one lioness on the throat, one on the rear end, one underneath and another resting close by. Finally, with the zebra succumbed, they begin to enjoy the fruits of their labor!
We begged the driver to stop and he said, ‘what about the leopard’. We told him to wait until after we take pictures of the sighting. Cameras clicking away, we spent way too much time there, but worth every minute, as the sunset became more beautiful with each passing moment. And then off we went, rushing to see the leopard!
Still with some daylight remaining, we arrived to see the most spectacular, stunning and regal leopard perched atop a huge rock, barely visible when his head was down. As he lifted his head out of the same color of grasses surrounding him, oh my god, what a sight! Gently he moved his head from side to side, surveying any potential threat or danger and gently laid his head back down as if to say…can you please let me get some rest here? As if posing for our hundreds of pictures, the leopard casually and slowly got up to move, from the heat of the sunlight to the shade of a nearby tree, as the sun was slowly going down in the distance. And as the sun set, and we could only see the eyes of the leopard, we realized it was pitch black in the Okavango Delta.
How do we get back? How do we see? Can we find the roads? We’re not in the city; there are no streetlights, no signs, and no headlights! Like most guides, ours knew exactly where to go and how to get there. But first he asked us, who knew the way back – everyone pointed in a different direction, so we chose his. Tearing back across the savannah, the only things visible were the many eyes of animals in the bushes or out in the open. The guide pointed to the eyes, and would say, there’s a hyena over there, there’s a lion over there, but really the only eyes we wanted to see were the eyes of the Chief Camp’s guides as they greeted us back at camp. WHAT AN ADVENTURE!
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