Blog By: Tyron van der Walt (Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge Ranger) Source: Sabi Sabi
What makes for a memorable and amazing sighting? Is it seeing an elephant with massive tusks; perhaps seeing a lioness with her cubs; or watching a leopard spread lazily on a tree branch? It could simply be that you’re in the bush in the early evening and seeing the most stunning sunset and feeling grateful to be alive.
As a guide, I have been asked many times as to what my favourite sightings are. It is very difficult to single out one special sighting, as there have been so many. I have been fortunate enough to see many, many glorious sightings and each time I say, “This must be the best sighting ever!” It somehow gets surpassed by another great one. Every sighting is different and plays out differently. Simply put – my list is very long one. I have chosen one great sighting to share with you in this blog post.
Being a guide, I have seen countless leopards but never been lucky enough to be able to see any leopards with their cubs, until I came to work at Sabi Sabi. It is truly cuteness itself, seeing a little blue-eyed ball of fur bounding around and playing with mom, while mom is trying to get some rest or groom herself. Even when walking with a little playful youngster, mom must be careful that she doesn’t step on the little cub.
During two different sightings of this female leopard, Kigelia, she had had two different litters, one as playful as the others before. Fellow guides reported seeing Kigelia and her first cub in the far north-western sector of the Sabi Sand Reserve where she had her den site amongst a group of large boulders, which served as a protection barrier against other predators in the area. At the time I had guests that really wanted to see their first leopard cub, and this was an opportunity for them to see something that is rarely seen anywhere in Africa.
We set off one morning and proceeded to follow up in the area where my colleagues had found the Kigelia female and her cub the previous night. As we circled the massive boulders, the last thing we expected was to see her on a large rock in the middle of all the boulders. There was no sign of the cub. We waited patiently and watched her as she scanned the area for any danger. When she felt comfortable, she chuffed (a soft leopard call) once or twice and from behind her, this little face with its blue eyes popped up to see what was happening. It was so small and beyond cute! As the cub became braver, it started to play with mom, licking her and trying to jump on her back and onto her head. At one stage it became curious about the vehicle, for we had been quietly watching them for a while. The cub slowly walked towards us before deciding to scurry back to the safety of mom. We enjoyed our moment with the Kigelia female and her cub. After some time, they moved off and we decided to do the same. In that moment, we all knew we witnessed the most amazing and special sighting…
Hopefully, I will be able to see more little leopard cubs, but if not, that is fine too, as I have had some superb sightings – more than I could have ever imagined. I feel blessed and eternally grateful to have been able to have these experiences.