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?
The next turn-off was Tlhware, about two kilometres from the Tshwene/Kubu junction. As we passed Tlhware I instinctively turned my head and looked down the road. “Was that a leopard?” Something was moving in the distance. I reversed and turned into Tlhware and there he was… walking straight towards us.
I poitioned the vehicle and switched off the engine as the shutters of our cameras started ‘singing’. Through the lens I identified him. Orion! It was the male leopard we called Orion. We enjoyed the moment and the unfolding scene in front of us but kept on clicking. Then he was too close for our lenses. We sat in silence as he passed within metres of our vehicle – a goosebump moment.
He turned into Tshwene Drive and walked in a westerly direction. Like a Hollywood star of note, he soon had a paparazzi of vehicles following. Satisfied and grateful we had managed to spend time with him before the others arrived, we decided to
leave the sighting.
It is difficult to describe the feeling when you stumble upon one of these beautiful, elusive cats in the wild. You have to witness it to fully understand and appreciate such a magical moment: a rush of adrenaline, increasing heartbeat, tightness around the throat, forgetting to breathe and concentrating on stopping the shakes and shivers that would ruin the photo opportunity. A final word of warning – once you have had this experience, you will be addicted and long for more.
Photo story: Dustin van Helsdingen
This story was taken from Pilanesberg Self-Drive