“It was a moment with a beautiful animal that I will probably never experience again; one so special that I will treasure it always”.
– Mr Botha
It was the morning of the 25th July 2018 and I left Davison’s Camp in my trusty old Cruiser, my travel mug filled to the brim with rooibos tea, and all my equipment on the back. Christopher, my assistant, was with me and we were on our way to Broken Rifle waterhole, which is 30 km from camp in the Makololo Concession. Travelling in my Cruiser down this Kalahari sand road, we passed elephant, buffalo, sable and kudu, out in the early morning sun in the changing season as winter becomes spring. I did not know that when I arrived at Broken Rifle, I would experience the most unbelievable wildlife encounter I have had in the past eight years while managing and running Wilderness Safaris’ game water supply in Hwange.
A very open area surrounds the pan at Broken Rifle, with a few magnificent leadwood trees close by, used by the elephant as rubbing posts. After their mud bath, and as the second part of their spa treatment, they proceed to the massage parlour to relieve stiff and sore muscles, or just an irritating itch.
Busy drinking water from the pan when I arrived was a leopard. I stopped immediately so as not to disturb it, as leopards here are notoriously wary of vehicles. She stopped drinking, and looked at me. I thought that she would run for cover but instead she cowered down to hide in the dry grass, popping up again and again, to check me out. I moved a little closer, very slowly, but that did not seem to fuss her.
She carried on with her routine, her beautiful rosette-spotted coat shimmering in the early morning sun. She crossed the road in front of me and made her way to one of the leadwood rubbing posts, which was only a couple of metres off the road I was on. She sniffed around the tree, sat down and looked at me. I was still inching forward, but when I got too close she snuck off behind the tree.
I stopped to see what she was doing. She peeped around the tree, her curiosity getting the better of her. I moved my Cruiser a little, and back behind the tree she went. I stopped, she peeked out on the right side of the tree, and then on the left. This game of hide-and-seek continued, with her glancing around each side of the tree.
I didn’t want to leave, but I needed to go to attend to and refuel the diesel engines at Big and Little Sam pans, so that they could continue pumping for the elephant and the wildlife there. She never took her eyes off my Cruiser, and when I finally left, she remained next to the elephant’s rubbing post, as relaxed as ever.
It was a moment with a beautiful animal that I will probably never experience again; one so special that I will treasure it always – and for those that appreciate the way of the wild, I wanted to share it with you.
Until next time, take care and chin up,