Just before the drums went for wake up a leopard was calling very close to camp. I was chuffed that both Chubby and Claire heard it too, very keen that they get to know just how wild and wonderful Makuleke is.
Today was their first walk, but before we got to the starting point I had to pick my way through a breeding herd of eles on Middle Road. Once we were through it was a bit of a race to see if we could get the perfect sunrise, which we didn’t. Still this morning was all about walking and we got to Indian Baobab on Rhino Boma Road at the right time to start.
The mornings are getting cold, you can see your breath and gloves for the morning drive are near essential. This is especially so if you have to load your rifle as soon as you get out of the vehicle. I’ve been starting my walks in a sleeveless fleece until it warms up, I then just pop it in my back pack where it’s no inconvenience whatsoever.
Because winter has brought the colder nights I’m sure its the reason why we’re bumping more leopards. Both Jomi and I have seen a couple of leopards each on our walks in the last three weeks. We’re not walking anywhere different nor are we walking more than normal. My guess is that we’re stumbling upon the leopards as they warm themselves up in the morning sun after the cold night.
Our walk this morning was Nwambi Pan on the Salvadora Plains, so named because of the pleothera of narrow leafed mustard bushes (Salvadora australis) there. This was a great initiation to “trails” for Chubby and Claire as the area is very “Africa” due to the scenery and because it has plenty of plains game.
Because the students are walking as “lead” and “back-up” I carry out my official duties at the back of the line. Every now and then Chubby and Claire would end up at the back with me as they rotate in line which gave us the opportunity to snatch a quick word.
We had one encounter, a small splinter herd of buffalos that had just been down to the pan for water. They hadn’t seen us but we were caught in the open so we all had to crouch down. This was a struggle for poor chubbs after his countless knee operations, so he just gave up and sat on his backside.
In the afternoon I took Chubby and Claire up to Luvuvuh West for sundowners at second lookout. This is such a stunning place to begin with but was made even greater by two hippos in the river, countless white cheeked bee-eaters hawking over the river in front of their nests in the sandbanks and finally a herd of elephant coming down for water just as the light was going.
We were in the Landagreenie again which meant no lights. However, tonight I had a plan which was to Sellotape my torch to the bull bars at the front. This worked well but did get some funny looks when we bumped into Alveat with his guests from Outpost. He’d actually got a fright and first thought that we were an unofficial vehicle sneaking around the concession by torch light.