Dusty Surprise

Posted on Wed September 14, 2016.

As the drought starts to drag on, the game viewing around Klaserie Sands River Camp has really been phenomenal. This week, one particular drive really stood out for me as in 16 years of guiding I had never seen anything like it.

The drive was filled with all the usual suspects and as the sun was dipping towards the horizon we found a small breeding herd of buffalo, to say they look exhausted would be an understatement. The herd had already bedded down for the night and were in poor condition. I had found their tracks earlier in the afternoon a short distance away and thought it strange they had stopped feeding so early on in the evening. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw the tawny shape move through the Mopani. Lions!

With a stalemate on the cards, buffalo in a tight impenetrable circle and the lions lying expectantly waiting for a crack to show in their defence we decided to wait it out and see what comes of the interaction. Darkness fell quickly as it always does in the African bush and not much changed. 15 min turned into 30. 30 turned to 45, and as we approached the hour mark suddenly the herd stirred. Whether it was hunger or thirst I can’t be sure but the herd got to their feet and in unison charged at full speed at the lions a mere 50m from where they had lay. The lions swiftly got out of the way of 100 bovines bearing down on them and in the dust and commotion we caught occasional glimpses of the lions in hot pursuit. 

The speed with which it all happened was astonishing and I was not in the right position for such a bold move. So while trying to manoeuvre and catch up to the herd I sped off in the direction of the bellows and branches cracking. The farmyard odour of the herd hung as thick as the dust in the still winters night air and I had to stop a few times to let the dust settle just to see the road. And then it happened.

In the road ahead, appearing out of the dust, an odd shape, was it a lion in stalk position…no it was an Aardvark. My adrenalin surged as any sighting of these amazing creatures always gets guides extremely excited. I was so excited that I started to move up the road towards the aardvark when one of my guests said, “watch out”. Right next the vehicle was a leopard in full stalk mode. Stalking the aardvark! 

The leopard moved into the road in front of the vehicle and started to stalk towards the aardvark getting to within metres of the animal but not seeming to quite know how best to tackle this strange creature. One of our guests managed to get a blurry image in the poor light but it is still a decent documentary image of the interaction. After stalking the aardvark for a few more minutes the leopard seemed to give up. Was it our presence, the hunting lions or inexperience with a quarry like this I don’t know but the leopard walked off into the bush and we all agreed it was time to head back to the lodge for a well-deserved drink and a meal. 

Africa always has a way to surprise and astound you and leaves you wanting more, can’t wait to get out there and do it all over again tomorrow.

Image © Guy Townsend