Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Safari Part II

Our first game drive was at 3.30pm to beat the heat of the day.

We clambered aboard the all-terrain Land Rovers which are open topped and one sided, with tiered seats for a great all-round view. Our tracker is Collen, from the local Shangaan tribe. He speaks little English, but doesn't miss a thing.

We encountered plenty within minutes of leaving the camp gates; hornbills, impala and a male Nyala (a type of antelope).

After about an hour of ogling at everything, Collen gave a low whistle and the jeep came to a sudden halt. There, in the baked mud of a former watering hole, pcok-marked by the huge footprints of elephant, lay a young female leopard. We had all looked straight at her and not seen a thing.

We manouvred closer as we all clamoured for cameras and binoculars. She was nervous at first, and scuttled into some low bushes nearby. But after a while, when we stopped and cut off the diesel engine, she calmed and lay quietly in full view almost 10 yards away.

Kipling couldn't do her justice.

A creature of immense elegance and grace, with markings no architect could hope to recreate. When she looked directly at me and I gazed into those pale green eyes, I was quite overcome with emotion. It literally brought a tear to my eye.

We stayed there for the best part of an hour, and she even got up and came closer, lying in the dappled evening sunlight looking for all the world like a domestic cat.

She blinked her eyes, rolled on her back and washed herself languidly for the cameras. An extraordinary creature.

We moved off and as dusk fell across the vast landscape, we found an almost stereotypically good granite outcrop in the middle of the bush.

We climbed its smooth sides to a plateau around 30 feet up, feeling the warmth of the day reflected on its ancient surface. And there, with Rory and Collen and our two game drive companions, Dennis and Christina, enjoyed a gin and tonic sundowner as the massive sky blushed and darkened above.

1 comment:

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

you've got a way with words fella. Great writing, looking forward to hearing more from you.