|Freddy our expert tracker at Sabi Sabi takes a break from our incessant questions.|
GUIDED BY OUR SKILLED SABI SABI TRACKER, WE FOLLOW A LEOPARD THROUGH AFRICAN BUSH
Trackers in general have a highly specialized skill. They can follow the spoor (tracks) of animals as they make their way across game paths, through sand, or even in the bush where vines twist in an impenetrable curtain and the ground is covered in a dense mat of leaves.
The lightest imprint of a tiny hoof, a sapling broken at its base and trampled, a steaming mound of dung, the tracker sees it all. He reads a story about the bush that we lesser mortals miss entirely.
Freddy's talent was not limited to defining ground spoor. In poor light, he picked up the movement of a Rainbow Skink, a small lizard with a turquoise blue head,and shoulders tapering to a body of burnt orange and a tail of pale salmon. As we passed, the tiny creature circled furtively around a branch.
In the darkening bush we saw a civet cat slip ghostlike into the undergrowth and heard the call of a Black-headed Oriele. Bruce stopped the Land Rover close to three bull buffalo as they grazed, snorted and rubbed huge bony bosses on tree trunks. A kudu buck and doe, considered by many to be the most beautiful of the African buck, rubbed against each other affectionately. More than a game viewing this was a complete wilderness experience.
At a Silver Cluster Leaf tree Bruce broke off a small branch spreading the end with his fingernail. "It makes a very good toothbrush" he said and held it out for me to try. The leaves from the same tree if crushed and rubbed on exposed skin are an excellent insect repellant.
With the approach of evening a cool whispery breeze preceded a roll of thunder. Then, like an actress taking the stage, a leopard hove into view. She appeared not to see us although I didn't believe that for a minute. Instead she padded purposefully along the dirt track, her marvellous spotted coat rippling and glistening with the flow of her powerful muscles. He long white-tipped tail curled up at the end to protect its snowy extremity swung rhythmically from side to side as she walked. We followed, the Land Rover's headlights lighting the way.
Leaving the road, the leopard, like a queen leading her courtiers, set off over tangled roots, broken tree stumps and across rockstrewn terrain. At a waterhole she crouched, lapped her fill, rubbed her body against the rough bark of a tree, marked the spot with a well placed squirt of urine, then turned. One moment she was with us, the next she vanished.
More to follow ...
Images copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday, 20th November, 2010