Living ‘bush’ allows us to watch the ebb and flow of nature taking her natural course with the circle of life. It is such a privilege to experience the unique feeling that we are a small part of an animal’s life. Over the last seven years working at Singita, I have watched leopards come and go in various Singita regions, true to the peak and trough of leopard populations in the wild.
There is always one particular population of leopards that is extremely close to my heart, as I literally live with them. Often, I have woken up in the early hours of the morning listening a rasping roar, wondering who it is and in which direction they are going. Leopards have added significantly to my guiding experience, and I now understand them better than ever before, and this is all because of the frequent interactions that we are fortunate to have with the well-habituated leopards in the area.
As we watch them in wild, due to being able to see them frequently, we see how young male leopards soon become independent and instinctively move away from their natal territory that are maintained by their mothers. Conversely we see mother leopards often relinquish territory to their female offspring. We watch the males fend for themselves and occasionally we are lucky enough to have them establish a territory in close vicinity to Singita.
A leopard that is considered a highlight by the guides at Singita, is the Ravenscourt male. Unfortunately, he spends a greater part of his time west of Singita, but occasionally crosses the boundary and we encounter an old friend that holds a legendary story of survival.
The image on the right was one of the last recorded sightings of the N’weti young male just before he decided to move south in the Sabi Sand Reserve. The guides keep a record of identities with each of the leopards we encounter. We work closely with Panthera to attain the data required in order to create an historical analysis of movement of the leopards throughout a year, but more importantly through several years. This data adds great value to facilitate a conservation purpose and management strategies.
I, as well as two other guides, got the opportunity to visit our Zimbabwean colleagues at Singita Pamushana. What an incredible place to visit and what a great experience it was seeing the different landscapes and terrain. The mountains that occupy the property are mind-blowing as well as the open grasslands. The area has got a lot of diversity with regards to terrain, thus allowing for multiple different species to roam the area. We went on two game drives a day for two weeks and never was one drive even close to being the same.
After guiding for several years, there is wish list that starts to grow on what you would like to see or experience whilst being in the wild on a daily basis. I am privileged to have the opportunity to work daily in the bush, whether its sharing my love and passion for the bushveld with guests or taking a leisurely walking trail on my own. In my capacity of being the resident photographer for Singita, it has afforded many opportunities. The safari wish list is endless, whether it is adding to a bird list, seeing an elephant up close or a nocturnal creature like a honey badger – there is a thrill of ticking sightings off the list.
I started my career at Singita in the Kruger National Park. I loved the area; it was wild, full of surprises and pure remote wilderness. When I started guiding in the area, general wildlife viewing was plentiful with a strong abundance of lion that dominated the area as the main predator. There were a few leopard sightings that were reported, particularly that we were able to identify; however they were slowly habituating to the vehicles as we explored the remoteness of the area. The leopards soon realized that we were not a threat and as the guides maintained a comfortable distance from the elusive predators, this enabled being able to recognise certain individuals or watch behavioural indicators that would warrant maintaining a distance or permitting a closer view.
There is a beauty, a drive and a spirit in the art of tracking. When you come across the foot prints of an animal and step down from the vehicle to investigate, there is a sense of aliveness and a feeling that brings you right back down to earth. It gives you an understanding, one that creeps into your body and your mind, you take hold of what feels like the spirit of the animal and you move in the steps it has taken in its past.