This afternoons game drive started off well – not 10 minutes drive from our lodge we found lion tracks. Sidwell hopped off his perch on the front of the Landcruiser and went in search of the lion. Within seconds he motioned that he’d found it – about 30 yards from where we were. Big Boy, the pride male, had been laying just over the ridge in a dry riverbed and as soon as Sidwell was on foot, he sat up to see what prey was coming his way. Sidwell quickly reclaimed his seat and we drove down into the riverbed to get a better look at Big Boy. Lions view the game vehicle with people in it as one large thing – not as a car with individual people in it. So, on foot, lions are very dangerous while in a vehicle with an experienced driver and tracker, lions pose little threat. In fact, they appear to not care one bit that we are gawking at them and disturbing their slumber. So, we got to spend a long while with him and took many photographs while he caught up on a few Z’s.
After leaving there we went looking for the black rhino again as new guests arrived today that hadn’t seen him yet. We were however, unsuccessful. Next we drove to the brush patch that serves as the home for a tiny lion cub – roughly 4 weeks old. We were able to see him a little but photographs were nearly impossible with the thick brush his mama hid him in. Good mama lion. Next we drove into the open area where we saw many plains game – giraffe, waterbuck, impala… And lionesses! Sitting near a dam were two lionesses and one cub that Kjell estimates at about 10-11 months old. Just beautiful. And on top of that, they began hunting. She stalked a waterbuck and a giraffe but never attacked. They became bored with us and wandered off into thick bush which was okay because just then Kjell got a call that a leopard had been spotted! So far this trip we were missing leopard to make our African Big 5 (Lion, leopard, cape buffalo, elephant & rhino) – and we have never seen a leopard so this was exciting news! But, we were quite a distance away from the sighting and the road to get there was over hill and dale with rough roads. No matter – this had to be done. So hold on everyone – we are ‘putting foot’ and getting over there ASAP! Now that was some fun! Cameron said it felt like we were in the Dakar Rally offroad race and we all agreed wholeheartedly. Here’s a photo of Steph and Casey, our friends and fellow lodgers from Australia, white-knuckling it in the back seat which since it’s behind the real axle is the bumpiest ride on the truck. I’ll have to agree with Casey – it really captures the essence of the moment including the speed and bumpiness!
As we were making haste, the trackers who had spotted the leopard lost him because Big Boy, the male lion from earlier had chased him off of his turf. The search was back on though… We looked high and low and were about to give up to head back for dinner and drinks when the call came in again – leopard spotting! (no pun intended) And the race was on again! A few kidney jarring minutes later we had arrived in the area of the leopard. As we drove up, to our left was a lone white rhino having a dip in the muddy dam. That made 4 of the Big 5 today! Only leopard to go… And there he was. In all his spotted glory. We were still about 70 yards away and had to make our way over to him with another game vehicle also watching him. The other driver though was with a research crew and not as intent to follow this spotted beauty through the thick bush. Our fearless leader wasn’t about to let this end here though. As the cat slinked off into the brush, we followed behind and off to the left, powering through bushes, small trees, large tree stumps and all manner of obstacles to stay with this gorgeous animal. He paused several times for us to get a look and slowly kept meandering on. I was furiously snapping photos but the sun had already set and we had to use only the spotting lamps to see. I took about 40 pictures and only one came out clear. And I couldn’t be more pleased….not only did I get to watch this guy but also one photo momento with which to remember his striking elegance. Here it is:
I hate to say it but we have to leave Naledi tomorrow morning to head off to our next destination. While I’m very excited and happy to continue the adventure and discover new amazing places, it’s sad to leave a place we love so much. In addition to the amazing animal sightings, the people at Naledi make it unforgettable. It’s obvious that Kjell loves what he does because it shows through in the level of service he provides. Let’s not forget Kim, his wife and master chef. I’ve been remiss in not talking much about the culinary experience and I’d like to correct that now. Nothing we have had during our stay was mediocre – everything was top notch, 5 star fantastic. Just to name a few dishes: ostrich burgers with cranberry glaze, cinamon roasted duck with rooibos infused quinoa, smoked springbok carpaccio, and the list goes on and on. I’ve learned that during a guests’ stay – even if they stay 3+weeks – no lunch, dinner or dessert item is ever repeated. The chefs are masterfully creating new works of art for the guests to enjoy. And Sidwell – what an amazing tracker. He spotted things I would have never seen, found tracks, followed them and even went on foot through the bush to be sure we saw every animal possible. Between he and Kjell, there was no giving up. The determination to make our stay memorable was evident through and through.
It’s off to bed now for one last game drive at 5am. After that we hit the road for the border of Botswana and new adventure. It may take me a while to post again but I think Tuli Lodge has wifi as well so more to come then. Until then, more pictures: