South Africa: Sabi Sabi Safari – Part 5

From Bob Conger:

Another early start, and before the caffeine had even circulated in our bloodstream, we found ourselves on a dirt road with a huge leopard, much larger than the earlier one.

This one is the dominant leopard in the area, and he was absolutely magnificent.  Another ranger reported that this leopard had feasted on hyena the prior night, leaving his belly distended and his gait sluggish.  He glanced at us with indifference as his powerful stride carried him down the road, past our car close enough to touch.  Breathtaking.   He paused to catch the scent of another leopard, and gave an impressive warning “rasp” (sounds like a giant wood saw scraping across a rough board) to alert other leopards to vacate the area — and indeed another ranger radioed in that he had seen a younger leopard leaving the area at a rapid clip.

Another highlight of the morning was the chance sighting of a baby impala, perhaps 1 week old, standing about 18 inches tall, with 3 adults.  So cute scampering after the adults.

Kudu, a buffalo in a water hole, wildebeest, a herd of bachelor impalas, and a monitor lizard rounded out the 4-footed company for the morning.

We also enjoyed a wide variety of birds — yellow and red hornbills in a thornbush, their bills looking like little bananas and red peppers; a lizard buzzard at the top of a tree, soaring eagles, and African harrier hawk, black-headed orioles, kingfisher, and a 3-banded plover.

And, during a quiet moment, Mike gave us a fascinating description of termite mounds, some of them still in active use after hundreds of years.  The tallest we saw was probably 20 feet high — and we learned that they are 9 times as big underground.  The termites engineer and make tunnel adjustments so precisely that the temperate inside the mound varies only half a degree over the course of a year!  Mike also explained the key role that termites play in cleaning dead grass and other foliage off the bush floor, keeping the floor vibrant with life.

Alas, our stay at the Sabi Selati Lodge finally came to an end, and we bid adieu with vivid and fond memories of the delightful hospitality and the incredible scenery and wildlife that we were privileged to view and to travel among.  It was, indeed, the visit of a lifetime.

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~ by Rob Page III on August 16, 2010.

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