I was continually told, "Do you know how lucky you are to have seen all of these?!" "This is so rare." It is not whether I will have some amazing photos to frame and cherish for life . . . it is a matter of which ones will I frame? How do I choose between amazing and fantastic and exquisite?! I am more than grateful for this incredible luck - and our great Guide, Formen.
These cats have a tolerance and comfort with us that I have found astounding. I understand that most of them have grown up with these Range Rovers and their caravan of people coming close to them, staring, and the "click, click, click" of the cameras - some going off so quickly, they sound like machine guns firing. To get within 10 feet of them laying down, or having them walk within 4 feet of the Rover, traversing from one place to another, is something I did not expect. While the pictures are unimaginable in their proximity and reflection of near perfection in these animals, it was even more amazing to actually be this physically close to them. This was of course, our choice to be this close to them, not theirs, but they acquiesced and allowed us our photos.
It was not, however, always our choice in our proximity to them. We have one young male leopard who fancies our lodge grounds. During one of our drives during which we had seen the young leopard resting in the group of bushes in the middle of the dried river bed over which most of our tents look. We watched him rest, roll around in the sand, and then stalk something that led him up the edge of the river bed into the lodge grounds. He apparently missed his prey that time and ended up with a guest's laundry bag placed on the side of the walking path during the morning cleaning. The laundry in the bag was left unscathed and dropped further down the path when he must have realized this orange and brown bag did not have the taste or texture he sought. I'm sure the cleaning women were none too pleased about that one.
Later, the rumor was that he did get a baby nyala on site. Hence, the likely attraction he must have acquired for our lodge area. Interestingly, however, despite his ease and desire for our lodge site, he seemed to remain quite aloof to the guests. Upon an escorted walk to dinner after dark with our Guide, Formen, he pointed out our resident leopard friend underneath a bush next to my tent. Hmmm, this is interesting. I had been told by one of the lodge managers that he had seen leopard prints next to my tent after my first night there. It appears I have a friend.....No one seemed too concerned about his presence, but naturally precautions were taken in walking to and from tent sites at night.