It was around 7h00 on a fresh spring morning in Mashatu Game Reserve in south east Botswana. We were travelling in our open game vehicle along the dry bed in the Majale river. This is usually a wonderful place to see wildlife crossing the riverbed on its way to its feeding places. The diurnal wildlife is going to its feeding grounds, and the nocturnal wildlife is looking for a place to sleep. The cathemeral wildlife, which is active both in the day and at night, are wandering around looking for opportunities.
A few hundred metres in front of us we saw a young leopard crossing the riverbed.
“If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.” ~ Heraclitus
The young leopard climbed up the far bank and disappeared into the crotons. Undeterred, we found a route for our vehicle up the steep river bank and started to look for the young leopard which we expected to be mobile and hunting. To our surprise we saw her up a dead tree looking down at the ground in front of her.
What she, and we, did not realise is that there were two fully grown lionesses lying in the shade of a bush close to the dead tree. This leopard must have climbed the river bank and walked straight into the two sleeping lionesses. Instinctively, this leopardess climbed the tree out of danger from the two lionesses.
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask, act. Action will delineate and define you.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
This young leopardess settled down for what looked likely to be a long wait. She kept her eyes on the lionesses all the times.
Every now and then this leopardess looked up, very alert because she was assessing whether the lionesses were sufficiently fast asleep for her to descend the tree and make her escape.
Alert, wary and patient.
The lionesses seemed to not have seen her and rested peacefully never looking up at her, high up in the tree about 30 metres away. The leopardess was caught up a dead tree with no protection from the rising sun which was getting hotter by the hour.
Eventually we decided to leave the stand-off and go and look for a little more action. About two hours later we decided to go back and see how the stand off was developing. It was now really hot, the young leopardess was no where to be seen. The lionesses were lying peacefully in the shade. The stand off seemed to have ended happily for all concerned.
“Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.” ~ Dale Carnegie
The young leopard obviously got a big fright walking straight into sleeping lions. Her instinctive reaction was to climb the nearest tree to get out of harm s way. The intensifying heat from the rising sun must have forced her to take a calculated risk and come down the tree and escape to a cooler or shady secure place.
“But life inevitably throws us curve balls, unexpected circumstances that remind us to expect the unexpected. I’ve come to understand these curve balls are the beautiful unfolding of both karma and current.” ~ Carre Otis
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.
Have fun, Mike
What a fascinating encounter – and beautiful photographs!