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Friday, October 23, 2009

Leopard sneaking around - Selous GR

21 October 2009 - Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

Selous is not crowded. During a day you may encounter all - like - 8 4x4's a few times. You have your space. It's very bushy, much more forest and half forested areas than Serengeti. A leopard is a very rare sighting. Our guide - Tende of Afriroots, a true bushman - has only encountered leopards on 5 occasions in the last 7 years. And then mostly just hidden up in a tree.

We were driving around for a while. Started our game drive early, at 6:50. Around 9 there was word from 1 of the vehicles that there was a leopard walking around. With cub! So each vehicle encountered was informed. In Selous you can drive off road, unlike the parks in the north. Without going off road, it's impossible to track down leopards. The bush is very thick. You really have to follow tracks and understand behaviour of animals to be able to find them. All cars drove across the bush, trying to find a trace. From 2 angles another 4x4 and we ran into the leopard! It was walking around, the cub on some distance running around. Brilliant!

So far I had only seen leopards up in trees. Mostly hidden, dark. Only once a great moment in Serengeti where it descended from a tree. But it was already close to sunset then.

We followed the leopard. Which is not that easy. You have to drive around bushes, around trees that have been torn down by elephants. And still follow the leopard. It moved up into a tree for a while. Then it moved slowly towards the lake. From the dry bush, to the more lush - but still dry - grounds with palms around the lake. On the move for food! A herd of impala's was at the lake shore. By now more vehicles were joining us - and giving everybody space, this is not Serengeti.

A sighting of a leopard - even one in a tree - is even that rare, that everybody driving around the park will be informed. Also all lodges and camp sites in and around Selous are informed. Guests that are not on safari, but in the camp, are driven to the leopard. Courtesy service. For free. Just to give some context to the sighting...

The leopard was then moving out of the bush, along some palm trees. The cub had hidden somewhere in thick undergrowth. The leopard walked a bit. Layed down. Took cover behind an old log, looking at the impala's. Going slowly into stalking mode, close to the ground. By now some impala's have spotted the leopard and ran off. More impala's ran off, making alarm calls.

Quite a brilliant day, I must say. My best leopard photos ever! Just posted some photos that contributed to the story. Have many more.

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