Monday. Leopard day, surely? Well, with a 100 percent guarantee made last night, I had no choice but to deliver…this didn’t explain why I decided to go and look at some lions first thing this morning then!!! Andries had let us know that the Western Pride were sleeping on the tarred access road to the lodge, so I decided to go and have a quick look; as expected though, there were already a number of Ingwelala vehicles there, and with the lions sleeping about 25m off the road, it was never going to amount to much of a sighting, so we left them and carried on in search of leopard, which sadly didn’t come in the north-east. Opting instead to head to the central regions, we passed impala and waterbuck, giraffes, and a breeding herd of elephants. There were tracks for Ntima male leopard near Lion Pan, so I dropped Difference off to follow up there whilst we had coffee with a group of elephant bulls and another breeding herd of elephants close by, but sadly after our coffee, we heard that Difference was still not having any luck, and picked him up and headed back towards the lodge, fearing that again, I might have over-promised last night. Prior to coffee, we actually enjoyed quite a lot of general game along the riverbed with impala, kudu, zebras, giraffe and baboons showing themselves.
Heading out a little earlier in the afternoon, we made our way straight south, where, at least if we didn’t find leopard, I was sure I would find rhinos. The trip south wasn’t producing much, but when we arrived in the south, we ticked off impalas and kudus. Heading to the area where some rhino tracks were heading, we managed to spot two of them, but as seemed to be my luck, we no sooner arrived when they fed into a thicket that I wasn’t keen on following them into, so I decided to go around and wait for them…it was when we were follow our tracks out, and about to join the road that Difference looked up and exclaimed “Ingwe!”, my eyes followed his gaze, and there in front of us, where we had just driven a couple of minutes earlier, was now the lovely Nthombi female leopard sitting up in a marula tree! She settled down, and we got into a lovely position to be able to have a stunning view of her for a while before she descended the tree and walked off to the north, scent-marking as she went. She crossed a large drainage line, and we moved around to try and pick her up on the other side, but we got a bit distracted by the rhinos that were now drinking at a nearby mud wallow. Carrying on looking for the leopard, we didn’t find any sign of her – just a breeding herd of elephants – and suspected that she might have followed the riverbed up towards a private camp, but upon turning around, we found that she was actually lying casually in a low apple leaf tree! What a girl, but having had a really good sighting of her, we left to give Henry a chance. Sadly, she was lost shortly afterwards, but when searching for her, the other guides found Mondzweni male leopard on the prowl in the same area! We stopped for a drink with some hippos at Makulu Dam before heading home along the riverbed, passing a herd of elephants along the way. feeling confident, I promised both bush baby and chameleons tonight – 100 percent chance, of course – and Difference excelled himself and managed to find both for us, much to the delight of the guests. We ended the evening hippos out the water, as well as with a herd of elephants in the moonlight close to Geiger’s Camp…as well as me making a 100 percent promise to show them either lions or wild dogs tomorrow morning!!!