The Story Of Our Kruger Magic Moment
Sitting at home now I am reminded of a recent magic moment in the Kruger National Park. Out on a short photographic trip to Kruger with my brother in law (GB) resulted in a special day with encounters that will remain entrenched in our minds despite it being fleeting.
We departed Satara camp early as usual taking lighting conditions into account for our photography and headed north, destination Timbivati picnic site. A quiet sightings trip in good lighting conditions via the H1-4 and S127 preceded a light breakfast at Timbivati picnic site before heading down the S39 road back to Orpen gate. The S39 road follows the Timbivati river, a perennial water course that eventually runs into the Olifants river. This road has some of the best examples of large indigenous tress to view, just a great African bushveld road.
Rather lethargic after our feed Gerhard and I were both not in full operational game viewing mode when bang………! a Leopard crossing the road ahead the distinctive white flash on the tail diagnostic. What happened next was the magic mentioned earlier, two cubs followed shortly behind mom and disappeared into the grass to the right of the road. We approached the spot with caution balancing our anxiety and speed realising time was of the essence as all three indicated they were weary of our presence. I had never seen Leopard cubs in the wild before so yes, the adrenaline was pumping and lucky for us there was a small loop road close to where they had crossed……… then this!
Challenging lighting a reality as we were focusing our cameras into the morning sun and the settings critical to expose properly, I remember once looking at an image to see if my exposure compensation was enough and that was that. I blasted away and took 30 images in 18 seconds, yes 18 seconds was the time from the first to the last captured image before they disappeared into the thickets. I now understand the concept “Time stands still”, this encounter felt a lot longer than it really was, believe me. Our brains in overdrive as we took in all the action.
Another vehicle approaching from the opposite direction had also seen the Leopard crossing and had taken the loop road in anticipation of sighting them and they were well rewarded. This move blocked the path the leopards would have followed I believe, hence them veering off the road into the bush.
We continued our trip down the S39 babbling on about our luck, the sheer magnitude of the Leopard sighting and pure magic of the Kruger National Park. We hit the H7 tar road and turned right towards Orpen gate with a deadline to reach home for another engagement, not entirely happy we had to leave. Approximately 10 kilometres down the H7 another white flashing tail caught my attention, I manged to witness the leopard dash across the road and disappear into the bush, that was all we saw this time. Still counting our luck with two leopard sightings, it was nearing midday and about 9 kilometres from Orpen when we came across the standard bunch of stationary vehicles that indicate a significant sighting. On enquiry……. “A leopard” we were informed, no can’t be, making eye contact and shaking our heads. A bit of vehicle manoeuvring and yes, a beautiful male leopard sitting on his haunches surveying the nearby Kudu’s and Impala’s.
Our time was up and could not sit tight as we would have done under normal circumstances, blessed with three leopard sightings and five individuals before lunch we made our way to the gate, humbled and satisfied Kruger had delivered.