A leap of leopards

Those of you who read my previous post “I should have known better” will enjoy this one! I returned last month to Zambia to spend another six days in the Luangwa Valley. Days went by, enjoying unusual species including civet, honey badger, four toed elephant shrew and some spectacular birdlife. Lions roared in the evening but eluded our eyes. And finally, on my third night drive, we rounded a corner and saw the curl of a fluffy tail – it could mean only one thing – leopard! At last my luck had changed. We watched him slope casually through the bush, in search of his evening meal. The following night, another glimpse of spots by spotlight on a night drive.

But it was my penultimate night in the South Luangwa that really pulled out all the stops. Driving past a beautiful sand river watching three buffalos, we hear an alarm call nearby. The driver puts pedal to the metal and we zoom over in the direction of the noise. And there she was – Alice – one of the valley’s most renowned matriarch leopards who at the time of writing has two yearling cubs under her charge. To see a third leopard was beyond any expectation. To see one in broad daylight, totally relaxed around our vehicle, strolling around and then eventually laying down until nightfall when she could hunt was beyond words. We enjoyed sundowner drinks as she relaxed, lazily eyeing four puku nearby. Starlight overtook sunlight and we followed her as she made her way into the denser bush, finding a male impala which she stalked for hours. Eventually we lost sight of her, so I don’t know the outcome of her hunt, but it certainly was a game drive I won’t soon forget. And the Luangwa Valley certainly came up trumps this trip, when I had left my “shopping list” back home!