Before we left Imbali Private Game Lodge the members of my readers' tour were able to tick off a couple more of the Big Five, namely, a nice relaxed herd of elehants we came across at dusk (above), and a couple of herds of Buffalo.
There's an element of truth to this - Mrs Blog and I, for example, have the luxury of time when it comes to animal spotting so we're rarely in a rush to tick off the big five. However, the most laid back of regular visitors to Kruger and its surrounding would be stretching the bounds of credibility if they said their heart rate didn't increase a few beats when they found a leopard.
Literally within minutes of starting our first drive Ralph had spotted a leopard, and Mark took us to share the sighting. He was a beauty - big male. Although he looks like he's growling in this pic he's actually displaying a flemen response - a type of grimmace which allows him to pick up the scent of a female in heat. So he's not angry, just horny.
In true Sabi Sand fashion we followed the cat through the bush. Driving off road is a no-no for self drive visitors in Kruger and is strictly controlled in the park's private concessions. In the Sabi Sand and other reserves, however, bush bashing is often the order of the day.
Interestingly, as Mark pointed out, one type of creature was directly benefitting from our off-road pursuit of the leopard.
We watched these gentle, mostly blind creatures meander around, hurting no one except the grass (their non aggressivenmess towards man and other species makes their slaughter by poachers all the more disgusting).
Mark was able to deliver a long commentary as the rhinos blundered closer and closer to us, before we finally left them to be enjoyed by some other visitors.
On the afternoon drive, however, we struck black and gold when we followed reports (the vehicles in the Sabi Sand all communication by radio) of a young leopardess up a tree with an impala she had killed. Some of the camps in the Sabi Sand have reciprocal traversing deals which means they can cross on to neighbouring properties. We left the Kirkman's farm and crossed on to Lion Sands' land and found this lovely young lady, resting safe and sound above a pair of prowling hyenas who were waiting for some morsels to fall from her arboreal dining table.
Kirkman's proved to be lots of fun and very peaceful and relaxing in between game viewing and drinking. Even the walk home to the rooms in the evening was an adventure, thanks to a resident pack of Hyena loping about on the lawns. Manageress Colleen told us this was nothing - they'd recently had a resident leopard who used to sneak up to the lodge on cold nights and sleep on one of the outdoor couches.
All good things must, as they say, result in a hangover... I mean come to an end, and we reluctantly said goodbye to Kirkmans and headed to South Africa's most famous K-Town, Kaapstad (Cape Town).
I've written far too much in this blog and as I'm currently in the Shongololo airport lounge at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johanessburg it behooves me to go get another beer. If you'd like to see what my readers and I got up to on the luxurious Blue Train, and in Cape Town, then I would encourage you to befriend me on Facebook and check out the many pics I've posted there.