Often people think when rangers take guests out on an African safari, each drive is just the same as the other. Or what we do is only a job and nothing more, but I am pleased to tell you that is not the case.
I recently had first-time safari-goers and the only thing they were interested in seeing was the big five. This very popular list of Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino and Leopard is always high up on just about everyone’s bucket list of must-see wildlife.
We left River Lodge and drove out towards the southwestern part of South Africa’s Kapama Reserve. A Leopard on a kill had been spotted earlier that day but was very skittish. Leopards are elusive at the best of times, so I knew it was going to be incredibly difficult to relocate her but I stayed optimistic as anything can happen in the unpredictable bush.
We followed her tracks and soon enough we were lucky enough to come across her. We only saw her for a few brief moments before she disappeared but I could see how excited my guests were to still have seen a Leopard. I wanted to try and find her again so drove around a section of trees. As we came around the corner my guests were thrilled at what we came across.
It was not the female Leopard on her kill, but my favourite Lion pride the Moria pride, all lying in the road in full view. My guests could not believe I was just as excited as they were to see them. We spent some time with the Lions, giving my guests a wonderful opportunity to take a range of photos thrilled they could tick Leopard and Lion off their list from their first game drive.
After the terrific double big five sightings, we made our way to a wonderful location in the reserve to stop for a sundowner and watch the sunset over the Drakensberg Mountains. I love this part of the game drive. My assistant Ranger and I spoke to our guest about their first safari experience. They were thrilled at seeing two of the big five in such proximity.
As my guests were so pleased about the Lion sighting after our drinks break we decided to head back to where we saw the lions. As we approached the pride we noticed a large rock or that’s what we thought, lying in the middle of the road. As we got closer to the “rock” we noticed it was not a rock at all but a pangolin. It is such a rare animal to see as it is one of the most trafficked animals in Africa. Part of Kapama Private Game Reserves initiatives is the protection and conservation of endangered species like the pangolin. Our Anti-poaching unit does an incredible job on a daily basis to help conserve our wildlife.
The pangolin was all curled up in a ball which is its defense strategy to prevent anything harming its soft stomach. The scales, made from keratin, protect its entire body. What was interesting to observe was all the signs where the lions had played with it.
Once again this incredible safari showed me that no two safaris or days out in the South Africa bushveld are the same.
We slowly headed back to Kapama River Lodge to enjoy a delicious dinner and talk about our wonderful day.
Photos and story by River Lodge Ranger – Eben