It was 4 January 2017 when I had almost given up on finding a leopard on Mankwe Way. I’d already had two special sightings that day; some lazy lions and a rare sighting of wild dogs near Bakgatla Gate but I longed for a good leopard sighting. Mankwe Way was my obvious choice as this is where I hoped to find Motsamai, one of my favourite resident leopards.
As I took the turn-off into Mankwe Way, it was already nearly three in the afternoon and it was hot and sticky. I have a ritual I follow when searching for leopards on this road, one that has delivered great results in the past. I usually enter Mankwe Way from Kubu Drive and then scan the three main rocky outcrops on the left. Once I reach the first plain, I make a U-turn and head back to Kubu Drive, again scanning the outcrops. On this particular occasion I did exactly that. 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.
As I switched off my vehicle, one crow was coming in for another aerial attack, when I suddenly spotted the leopard in a willow boekenhout. It was Sephiri, a young, skittish male, peeking through the leaves and looking straight at me, changing focus only when one of the crows dive-bombed him.
He allowed me enough time to take a few photos but after about 20 seconds it was clear that he’d had enough of the crows’ pestering. He jumped down and vanished back into the tall grass.
Mankwe Way had proved itself again!
Photo story: Dustin van Helsdingen
This story was taken from Pilanesberg Self-Drive
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