Ed’s note: This post is a guest post from Rich Laburn who has worked extensively in the South African bush and currently at Londolozi Private Game Reserve. This is the first of four posts that Rich will be writing.
There is nothing quite like South African wildlife. It is impressive and has endured long before the first seeds of the country were sown. In South Africa the opportunity to spend uncluttered time with this wildlife is phenomenal because of the accessibility and diversity of game reserves. South Africa hosts many concessions and reserves that provide exclusive opportunities to experience wildlife in its purest form and in uncrowded freedom. Frustratingly though, with so much wildlife around, it’s impossible to experience all of the remarkable encounters that occur every second of every day. Instead, all you can do is pick one animal at a time and give all your energy, thoughts and appreciation to moments spent with that being.
Where I work, at Londolozi Private Game Reserve, the animal that is most frequently picked is the leopard. After 30 years of continual respect, habituation and game viewing, these elusive cats are content to allow us to view them for hours on end. Following them down dry riverbeds and gazing up at them whilst they fall asleep in the cradle of large trees, the leopards viewed by the rangers, trackers and guests are plentiful. From the 17 year legacy of the recently deceased Female leopard to the muscular Camp Pan Male. The Nyeleti female with 3 tiny cubs and the Nottens Female who has just taken over her mother’s territory, these leopards are iconic. They are stars in their own unwitting way, yet still wild animals working with the pure existence of nature for their survival.
For me, there is one leopard that I feel the most affection for. The Maxabeni Young Male, so called owing to the spot pattern on either side of his shiny pink nose. Unlike his more evasive twin brother, this young male is willing to share his journey into adulthood. Cocky and cheeky but still desperately trying to learn where his place in the world is, every moment spent with him is different, interesting and thought provoking. I have watched him hunt his first antelope, leap away in fright from prowling hyenas and how his body language shifts from fear to confidence in momentary flashes. He has taught me lessons of persistence, courage and the value of cutting your losses. He is only a year old, yet he is wise.
This leopard is just one of many different animals that we as South Africans are lucky enough to have on our doorstep in the game reserves throughout this country. I don’t know where else in the world people are granted access to the exclusivity of spending time alone with wild animals, deep in the bushveld. It is here that the madness of the daily grind fades, the pollution of noise and carbon dissipate, and the seamless progression of days into nights into days allow you to just sit, enjoy and possibly learn something small from a moment with that being. It’s moment such as these that make South African wildlife truly rock.
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