Pilanesberg National Park is a malaria free park situated in the North West Province in South Africa, a fascinating fact is that it is positioned on a crater of an extinct volcano that last erupted some 1,200 million years ago.
The Park is not only famous for the Big 5 but also the diverse bird population with some 360 species being recorded. There are various hides situated in the Park that offer great photo opportunities, the most famous being Mankwe Hide where you are assured to spot a few Kingfishers.
As every safari-goer around the world knows the first topic of the day is to prepare a list of “most wanted” animals to view during the safari, and not surprising at the top of the list was a leopard – not only due to it being the most elusive cat but also because we had never spotted one in the wild before.
During previous safaris where we failed to spot any leopards we came up with the following profound statement: “A person does not find a leopard, the leopard lets itself be found!”
The first two days of our 7 day trip did not deliver any leopard sightings, so when on the evening (+- 17h30) of the third day I caught a glimpse of a spotted tail through the bush I could not contain my excitement – could this be it ? The bush cleared to reveal the beautiful profile of a leopard, now I had to make a decision – try and stop to take a photo into the setting sun or go further down the road and hope the leopard continues it’s journey towards the river.
I decided to take the risk and parked close to the river opposite where a bush path had been created by the animals hoping the leopard would take it giving me a photo opportunity of a lifetime… for what seemed like minutes (more likely to have been 20 seconds) there was no sign of the leopard and then to my relief the most beautiful male leopard made it’s way down the path.
The cherry on the cake was that he stopped within 1 1/2 metres of our car before walking around the front of our car and off into the bush on the opposite bank.
My wife and I just sat there staring at each other, both struggling to come to terms with what we had just experienced – so blessed!
Till next time…