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Lions and Leopards and Cheetahs… Oh My!

Leopard in South Africa

Rock Lodge sits high on a hill

On this trip to South Africa, we are staying at the Rock Lodge in Ulusaba, Richard Branson’s Private Game Reserve on the western boundary of Kruger National Park.  We’ve experienced all kinds of wildlife on our game drives, but certainly one of the highlights has been the big cats. 

Lions, Leopards, and Cheetahs…daytime or nighttime, they are there.  The very first day, we round a corner and there, in the middle of the road lies a Leopard, relaxing in the sun.  We stop, she looks up, yawns and then totally disregards us.  We are of no concern to her whatsoever.  She sees our Land Rover with eight people as one big unit.  Nothing she wants to eat and nothing she needs to fear, since they are in the wild, but on a preserve that allows nothing to harm them.

Now don’t get me wrong.  You certainly don’t want to get close enough that she feels threatened.  And never get between her and her club or you will be asking for a heap of trouble.

We watch this one for about ten minutes while our guide explains the Leopard’s behavior and lifestyle.  Later that evening after sundown, we are out with our spotlight looking for anything of interest when we hear a commotion in the brush.  Our guide turns off the dirt road into the high glass and makes his way around trees and bushes,

through a gully and across the rocks.  Sometime there is no way forward except to run over a bush or small tree, so we get the order to hang on and away we go.  After a few minutes of searching by our tracker, we come across two female Lions and two Cubs.  They have just brought down an Impala and are starting to enjoy a well-deserved meal.  (Don’t worry, I’ve spared you the details in the pictures)

A day or two later, we come across eleven Lions that have brought down a Giraffe.  Now Lions generally can’t bring down a Giraffe by leaping on it.  Instead, they work as a group to run the Giraffe into some sort of hazard that causes them to stumble and fall.  Then they can ambush him before he’s able to get back up.

In the days ahead, we spend time following Leopards through the brush, sometimes for up to a half hour.  Another time we come across a Leopard sometime after she had caught an Impala.  By the time a got to her, she has already had her meal for the day, but know there were Hyenas in the area that would like to steal the rest of her Impala.  But she wants it for tomorrow, so she carries it up into a tree (probably thirty feet up) and hangs it over a limb where it will be safe from the Hyenas, and she can have another good meal tomorrow.

Cheetah watching us from on top of a termite mound

Another evening, we come across a Cheetah hunting out in an open field.  We follow her for a while just taking pictures and admiring the beauty and gracefulness of these big cats. Watching all the various animals in the wide of Africa is a highlight of a lifetime, and certainly near the top of the list are all the majestic cats roaming the wild.

(Click on a picture to enlarge and scroll)

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