The day after Christmas was rainy and overcast. With lunchtime approaching, we took Tshwene Drive to get to the Pilanesberg Centre. As we passed the Motlobo turn-off, my senses heightened. We were approaching one of the leopard hotspots of the park. I automatically slowed down. Would we be lucky today?
African wild dogs are sometimes referred to as ‘painted wolves’. They are closely related to the black-backed jackal which is a common sight in the Pilanesberg. Both of them have conspicuous erect ears and a long muzzle that ends in a hairless fleshy area that encloses the nostrils. Bushy tails and long slender legs also count as common traits but their feeding habits are dissimilar.
I was about to join Kubu Drive and accept that Mankwe Way would not produce any results on this day, when I heard the excited cawing of a pair of pied crows. I stopped to watch their strange behaviour. They were dive-bombing something in the tall grass. Reversing to get in line with the spot where the action was taking place, I scanned the area, suspecting their unusual antics were probably caused by the presence of a predator.
It was an afternoon to remember – the stars must have aligned for us. We had been watching some lions close to the Pilanesberg Centre earlier in the afternoon when we heard rumours of a leopard in a tree on the way to the Mankwe Hide. We are not in the habit of chasing sightings but we really wanted to see a leopard. We headed off in a puff of… fairy dust.