Leopards are not easily seen due to their elusive nature, their nocturnal habits, and their excellent camouflage. It’s also difficult to know how many are in the area because they roam a wide territory and are not contained by fences. Not deterred by these facts, we were determined to view the least seen of the Big 5. We actually caught a glimpse of one when another guest, Andrew, spotted it from our safari vehicle one day around 4:00 in the afternoon lying in the sand near the road. It disappeared quickly and none of us captured the event on film.
When we embarked on our last evening game drive, our ranger, JD, announced, “Hold on, we’re not stopping for pictures of warthogs or giraffes. A leopard was spotted on the other side of the reserve and we’re going to find it!” We took off at a wild pace, bouncing over the dirt road, literally holding onto our hats. In fact, at one point our tracker, Uyai, lost his hat. ( More on that later.) We combed the area for hours with no luck.
Then, after dark, on our way back, JD got a call on his radio telling him a leopard had been spotted in an area closer to the lodge. JD barked to the group, “If you want to see this leopard, when I say quiet, you have to be quiet!” No easy task for 10 excited tourists. To be sure everyone got the message, Rashi, another of our group, even called on her distant past French skills to say to our French family, “Fermez la bouche!”
This is the result of Uyai and JD’s efforts and our silence.
We also have lots of video footage but I admit this was the moment I wished I’d brought a better camera. The experience was so incredible, however, I’ll never forget our excitement.
The end of the story for Jim was icing on the cake. Because Uyai lost his Vuyani hat on the wild ride, Jim offered him the Cabela’s hat he was wearing. Uyai had worked in the past for Cabela’s, tracking and skinning animals for their mounts in the stores. He was delighted with the gift.