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Saturday, 23 June 2007

Spotting a Leopard on Safari? - Page 2

Written by Paul Lalonde
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For the first three days of our safari tour, she has eluded us. Our host, Corbis, offers a simple explanation: as one of Africa's stealthiest animals, the leopard can choose whether she'll be seen. He cautions us not to get discouraged, insisting she's always around you, sitting in the tall grass along the road, or high in a tree, lazing on a branch. He urges us to keep looking, saying that at any moment, without warning, you could find yourself facing her.


Abel ran to my rescue. "No fear, my friends. I promise you this – da leopahd come out only at dusk!" Ah, good news. It seems doubtful we'll encounter any hungry predators on our walk, and tonight's game drive seems the perfect opportunity to spot the leopard, from the safety of a large Land Cruiser, of course. Things were looking up.


lodgeThe mid-day heat forced me to seek relief in the lodge's pool. Lounging in the water, I reflected on my conversation with Corbis. Why does he call the leopard 'she'? And how is she "efficient?" If he said "effective," perhaps I'd imagine the leopard beating its prey about the head, or grabbing the poor thing by the throat and throttling it. But "efficient?" To me, efficient implies patience, planning, and above all, brains. Despite our earlier trepidation, I feel I've got to see this.


But time is running out because tomorrow we're leaving. Our game driver Gerritt knows the score. That's why he and his tracker Lawrence have promised to take us out with singular purpose tonight.


It's time to go. At mid-afternoon we change out of our swimsuits, ready our cameras and binoculars, and settle into the Land Cruiser.


"Let's find the leopard," Gerritt says, starting the engine. Lawrence lays his rifle on the dashboard and the truck sprays red dust in our wake as we leave the lodge behind.


A couple hours later we've covered a lot of ground, encountering giraffes, zebras, elephants, wildebeests, buffalo and ostriches, but no leopard. Daylight is waning, and I can tell Gerritt wants to pull out all the stops. Without warning, he swerves off the road, ripping back brush as he pushes forward. He leans back to talk above the thud of branches snapping against the hood. "We'll have our drinks later. We'll use the remaining light to keep looking."


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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