Looking out from the restaurant on the deck at Lower Sabie, the view is always alive with birds, hippos, and the snaking scales of crocodiles in the Sabie River. Two of the busiest sightings I have ever experienced have been a stone’s throw from this point.
If you think human activity is a deterrent for cats, let this be empirical of the contrary - a leopard in a tree in full view of the bridge to the camp and a lion down a bank, seemingly desensitised to the hubbub of cars around it. The energy of these sightings makes driving away feel like you’re breaking through a forcefield and out into a barren outer space – but sometimes this is where wonder is at its greatest.
Onward – and Tory, who had been quietly looking for game in the back of the car, shouted the words every safari-lover can’t wait to hear, “Cat in tree. Cat in tree!” An incredible male leopard, reclining on a high branch, opened eyes charged with the light of intrusion. In a breath, he padded lightly down the trunk and melted into the grass. With ‘the fire of thine eyes’ that scored through the cover of grass, ‘leopard, leopard burning bright’ certainly applies.
On my first drive along the length of Kruger, we went from north to south. On this trip, around Lower Sabie, I saw a line of elephant bulls like lithograph against the mountains – part of the silence, part of the spectacle. Years later, it is as if they have left a trail in the grass that leads me to that moment in memory so perfectly every time I think about the area.