Monday we drove all the way from Letaba to Berg en Dal. I needed to go to Nelspruit on Tuesday for the renewal of my spousal visa and Steven needs to go on trail today. He has been transferred to Wolhuter trail and until they fix the house up at Malelane Gate, he is driving all the way down to Berg en Dal for two trails and then all the way up to Letaba again for his week off. The house at the gate is in a bad state. The termites have climbed in there and have eaten most of the skirting. Now that those are almost finished they have started eating the kitchen cupboards and a few have actually come off the walls. But it is a beautiful house and I think we will be extremely happy there once it has been renovated. We have been waiting for 3 months, but nothing has happened to the house so far, which had been frustrating to say the least, but we try to make to most of it, so we all drove together on Monday and we get to spend some time in Berg en Dal, which feels a bit like a mini vacation in our own back yard!
It was a long drive down. About 240 kilometres, so we didn’t stop for much. We saw a lone lioness on the other side of the Olifants River where the road hugs the banks for a kilometre or two and the hippos a bit further up were sunning themselves on a big stretch of sand that got left there after the floods of 2013. It looks like Miami Beach! Those hippos must also feel like they are on holiday!
Alex had us in stitches when we drove past a few giraffe. His flavour of the month movie at the moment is Madagascar and when we stopped next to this big giraffe, he just pointed at it and said “Melman!” Clever boy!
We also spent 9 days in Berg en Dal two months ago just after Alex had malaria, and we saw such a lot of animals. We saw leopard almost every day, which is always lekker. But the most special of them all to me at the moment are rhino. We don’t see rhino’s in the north at all. So seeing active dung middens and rhino’s peacefully sleeping under trees is such a special treat to all of us! Another thing I really enjoy about the south is that people are so friendly! They greet each other in passing and patiently share information about sightings. I think I am going to love spending more time here!
So this morning was the first morning we did not have to pack up and rush anywhere, so I took the boys for a bit of a drive. We left shortly after seven. It was such a stunning winter morning. Nice and crisp cool air, stunning blue skies, the grasses all tawny coloured and dry, the leaves changing colour now that winter is here. And then there are the koppies and the hills surrounding the camp. It is so beautiful down here!
I drove the winding tar road that leads from Berg en Dal camp back to the main road where you can go either left to Skukuza or right towards Malelane gate. We had nowhere to be in a hurry, so I took my time admiring the hills and the beautiful landscape. I saw a bit of a traffic jam up ahead. A bakkie with an elderly couple was a little closer to me so I quietly asked them what it is they were looking at. There are three leopards down there. The gentleman behind the steering wheel said in Afrikaans. And he pointed towards a drainage ditch towards the right. Three leopards? I thought he meant cheetah, because in Afrikaans they are called ‘jagluiperd’ and male cheetah form coalitions and are often seen together. But no he actually meant leopard. Now leopard are very elusive, solitary animals that are usually only seen together when they mate or when it is a female with a cub. So this was a sighting definitely worth stopping for and trying to see where they were.
I stopped a bit closer to the traffic jam and saw a cat on my right. At first glance it did look like a cheetah, but upon closer inspection through my binoculars, I could see clearly it was a leopard!! Then I saw movement a bit further up ahead through some magic guarris. Another leopard! Then all of a sudden I saw some movement on an open field at the bottom on one of the hills and there was the third leopard that just went to lie down. The sun had just come over the hill and made the field he was in this beautiful golden colour, the leopard showing in silhouette with the sun behind him.
The next time we go on a trip like this, I definitely need to bring my good camera with my big lens, because trying to take a picture with my phone was just impossible.
The other two leopards crossed the road and were now also in this golden field. It was a female with her cub. The cub was a decent size already and I just sat there in my car with my jaw on my lap utter astonishment. I have never seen anything like this ever before. It was such an amazing and special sighting! Jack was on the wrong side of the car and fast asleep, and even though the leopards were a bit of a distance away, Alex saw them and made a few meowing sounds. He really loves his animals!
The male leopard got up and through my binoculars I could see just what a beautiful animal he was. In the prime of his life, with that big head and thick neck typical of a tomcat; his rosetted coat shiny and beautiful. No wonder this lady was following him!
The three of them slowly walked away and disappeared in the valley between two hills, leaving each and every person in that traffic jam that saw them with big smiles on their faces! Day made!
I don’t have any photos of these stunning leopard so close to Berg en Dal unfortunately, so the pictures featured here are some pics I have taken through the years.