20 January 2008,
Greetings and Salutations,
Well before departing on this evenings night drive, the last tour reservation that was accepted, I was told that these guests would like to see leopard (hopefully in the singular). I commented somewhat "tongue in cheek" that "Gee" they were "easy to please", as leopard are totally unpredictable. But then the caller was aware of this as this type of banter was typical of our conversation from time to time. So when the moment of 20h00 arrived, I departed with a vehicle brimming with flasks, hot chocolate and rusks*. After collecting all and sundry we headed towards the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, under the cover of darkness.
Chameleons and bushbuck were plentiful - cold and warm blooded critters. In fact after a sprinkling of rain there are always plenty of animals. Even the night jars were 20 to the dozen and although there was no moonlight for them to hunt moths, they seemed fairly optimistic at the potential of the clouds clearing and moonlight re-appearing to aid their feeding. So bumping along in between each animal or sightings. We had just listened to a chorus of frogs, we happened upon a very large leopard. When locating animals there is a certain predictability, the location and plant life attracts certain animals or there are traces of their activity - like droppings or feeding evidence. Leopard, well one moment you are bumping along and the next minute you have this remarkable beast in the spot light. In this particular incidence it was a very large and well proportioned beast. "leopard, Leopard" was the call, so obvious but it is almost impossible not to repeat the call. Since this male was close to the road and definitely out on a hunt, it was a great sighting. So at that moment I had a lot of very pleased guests. This particular male was fairly relaxed and we managed to follow him a short distance. After leaving this spotted cat we turned onto the Cape Vidal tar road and headed north.
Now one of the nice things about our resident population of buffalo, is that they can be regularly be found resting in the road at night. This what happens when you are a ruminant, you lie down and start regurgitating grass with no due concern to the possible presence of night traffic. The 'lights are on, but no one is at home' - scenario. Tar roads are great for this, as there are few ticks or bugs on the road and it is possible for the adults to watch out for any nasty potential predators. When finding buffalo on the road they are often reluctant to move off the road. So barely 200m north along the Cape Vidal road I noticed a 'line of eyes' across the road, what looked like a herd of buffalo. So gaining a little speed I flicked off the engine and glided up to what I predicted was the herd of buffalo, but when we closed the distance, five hyena filled the road. This pack seemed to be going nowhere. And at that moment I almost expected them to pull up next to the vehicle and demand. "Passports and drivers license please!". And then to add "If your license has expired we shall have to eat your tyres and all the plastic lining off your vehicle!" Just kidding, but this was the first time that I had seen five hyena and this pack was growing in size and stature. After departing this pack of 'nocturnal buck terrorists' we did find a good herd of buffalo standing in the road, so I was redeemed by the buffalo and educated by encountering this new pack of hyena.
Hasta la vista
The Knait Wrydah.
* Rusks are a totally foreign concept to Germans as is cricket. Shoving a rusk into a cup of hot chocolate ... well this habit is only permissible in South Africa. Never try this with a slice of bread and God forbid a Marie Biscuit.