Day 3 - Selous Impala Camp
The African bush is hard, not just for lion cubs, but for all young animals. In mid 2009 two leopard cubs were born to a beautiful leopardess, whose territory was near Lake Nzelekela, between Impala and Manze camps. Many guests of Adventure Camps have seen this little family and some sent me wonderful photos they had taken, which I put on our website for all to see.
In November however, the mother leopardess sustained injuries – we think from the horns of a male impala, as she was seen lying in distress with twin puncture wounds on her flanks, and after a couple of days she died. The cubs were seen sitting mournfully beside the body.
Everyone assumed that the two cubs would die, as they were only 4-5 months old, and still dependent on the mother. However, in January there was a report from one of our guides that one cub had been seen, and may have survived. I was of course very keen to hear if this was true.
So next morning I went out for a game drive with Tessa and her friends, in the hope that we might see some traces of the little leopards, or of the lion cubs Barbara and I had searched for the day before. We started out early, at about 6.30 as the first light stole over the grass, making long shadows. It was deliciously cool.
As we drove out of the camp, we looked for African Wild Dogs – we had heard that there was a pack of 10 in the area. We did see paw prints, and also a beautiful leopard pug mark, but no animals except for giraffes, impala and a lone elephant.
We drove round the northern border of Lake Nzelekela, dipping between groves of doum palms, which we searched carefully as it’s afavourite hiding place for lions in this area. Soon we stopped for a bush breakfast, which was set up by our driver and guide, Rajabu and Ezra, in a shady spot with a lovely view of the lake. Two fish eagles graced the tree above us and sang out their haunting cries.
After breakfast we set out with renewed vigour and after a short drive lions were spotted. Could this be our little pride of five? Success! It was the two lionesses and the one male lion, together with two small cubs about two months old, resting in a shady glade on fresh green grass.
The cubs were suckling from the mother, who lay on her back. They concentrated intensely, and gave every evidence of extreme satisfaction. We watched with delight for about half an hour, till the cubs were sated. They then started to play, pulling each others' tails and attempting to attract the attention of the older lions, who batted them off gently.
Eventually they too grew sleepy and all was peace. We drove off, leaving them to their own devices.
We felt very lucky and joked with Ezra and Rajabu that now they had shown us lions, all that was left was wild dogs, and of course a leopard. We headed back to the camp, and had turned off the main road past the sign to Selous Impala, when suddenly Rajabu braked and exclaimed in excitement: there is a leopard!
We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw the stunning male leopard sitting gracefully in the crook of a large Baobab tree, his tail hanging down. He did not wait long for us to admire him – leopards are notoriously shy – and we did not want to disturb him too much either.
Rajabu drove around the area a little, and we spotted him one more time, then returned to camps, leaving him to his peace.