Kirkman’s Kamp, Day 3

Although we had great photo shooting opportunities yesterday and this morning, the two most memorable moments didn’t involve photography at all.

First though, some game drive shots:

The lodge and the cabins here at Kirkman’s surround a grassy area on three sides. There’s a bench in the middle that sometimes hosts people and sometimes monkeys. Last night, though, as dinner was nearly finished, three elephants strolled onto the grounds and began dining on the leaves and branches of a couple of the flowering trees. Particularly for those of us new to this continent, it was an essentially African moment. (Now that I think of it, so was the warthog who wandered in and calmly grazed on the lawn for awhile in the afternoon.)

Earlier in the evening, we had been tracking the lions we had seen the day before. Based on their tracks, and reports from other drivers, they seemed to have been continuing their vain search for the missing cub. We tracked them all the way to the boundary with Kruger National Park, where we had to turn around. As the sun sank below the horizon, we found a male leopard who had been sleeping, waiting for the cool of the evening to arrive. Shortly after we drove up, he began to move. He’s nearing the end of his years, we were told, but he still was stopping regularly to rub against bushes and mark his territory. One of his ears was a bloody mess from a recent fight with another leopard (along with an older wound on the rump from a fight with a warthog. We drove ahead of him a couple times to wait for him, illuminating him with the spotlight as he passed, heedless to our presence. The last time, as he walked toward our vehicle I lowered my camera as he moved so close I could no longer focus. As I gazed at this incredible creature, so close I might have been able to touch him, our eyes locked, and we stared at each other for an instant that seemed infinite. It was a magic moment I won’t forget.