The ones that got away! Part 2

The ones that got away! Part 2

Kenya, Masai Mara, August 2002

It was 8 AM and still fairly cool as we left our camp by 4x4 situated at the famous Mara RIver. Here the Mara river was surrounded by a nice strip of forest only a few hundred meters at its widest before changing in to the treeless endless plains of the Masai Mara. As we started our drive we brought up the subject of Leopards. Convincingly our Masai guide told us that it was very unlikely that we would see a leopard during our 4 day stay in the Masai Mara as it was the most elusive of the big 5 and very difficult to spot. He told us about a group of tourist he guided for 10 days who specifically came to see leopards and who at the end of their trip saw exactly: 0 leopards. With other words he affirmed: don't get your hopes up.

While the guide just finished his sentence the 4x4 turned around the corner through the last stretch of forest when we had to come to a abrupt stop. We all gasped, there it was standing on the dirt road right in front of us: it was beauitufl leopard! Full in view, just a few meters away with no obstructions there stood the leopard frozen just as surprised as we were.  Before we came to our senses to grab the Camera that was still stowed away in our backpack the leopard ran off in to a nearby bush. From there it peaked at us through the bushes. I finally had my camera ready and quickly tried to make a picture but later on viewing the picture the leopard was nowhere to be seen.  The leopard ran off deeper in to the forest, and without a second doubt our guide quickly steered in to the forest after it (Masai Mara was one of the few places where you were allowed to drive off track).
Lighting fast it moved in front of us through the forest but obstructed by trees I did not get any pictures. It quickly jumped down the cliff of the Mara river's edge, jumped over the river in one smooth jump and jumped with supreme agility over the cliff on the other side and disappeared.  For a moment we all sat their frozen thinking this spectacular animal we just saw. That moment lasted very short as we were abruptly awoken by a very loud trumpeting sound just a few meters behind us by a not so happy elephant that we completely missed to see in all the excitement. To not cut our safari abruptly short we quickly backed down from the elephant to the safety of the road and started our safari drive.
Ah, Africa! How I miss it!

This must be one of my favorite wildlife memories, It is a shame I did not get any pictures of the leopard. Luckily in 2005 I got a second chance and was able to see  and picture 2 leopards, all though they were both much further away.

Lesson to be learned, ready yourself before leaving, not on the way. Also quite a few animals prefer living close to humas. In my experience travelling, often around small human settlements whether that is a safari camp, the entrance of a national park or a small town these are the places where  you will find the most wildlife.

Patrick van de Velde

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