back in SA.
we celebrated new years sucking helium out of balloons at a cool restaurant in port elisabeth. the day after we had breakfast at mcdonalds and then went straight out into the bush. to the quartaermains camp, to the amakhala and to the shamwari game reserve.
a week before i accidentally called julie and ryaan who runs the small bush camp. and by some miraculous reason they were free just the dates i asked for. they only have three tents and all of them where free. next available dates was a couple of months later. SCORE! i knew already at this point that this was exactly what we want. easy camping in the bush. no pool and no luxury resort spa thing. so i booked the whole camp and told them that soon you will have a big crazy family running around you in the wild.
the 1st of january ryaan picked us up with the big landcruizer. we where now in the game reserve. and just on the way to the bush camp down in the valley the road got blocked. by zebras. at this moment i think all of us got the feeling that this was for real. for real real. wow!
the camp was amazing. and on the game drives we got to see all the big animals. all seven different antelopes. the sheeta in the sunset. jumping around in the bush. hippos in the river. black rhino out in the open. the white rhino charging against our car. lions feasting on a dead springbok. the female leopard proudly taking her cub to her latest prey. hayeenas sneaking around the old kill. vultures above it. and the eagles even higher up in the sky. pumba running around the jeep of course. baboons hanging at our camp. big baboons. a family of giraffs. carving off the most protected leaves from the top of the trees. monkeys chatting with each other in the next tree. and tortoises taking their time to cross the road.
even at the camp we got the see amazing animals. once mum jumped out of the shower. throwing her towel around her. later ryaan catched what had been on her back. a spider as big as a mans hand. no wonder mum got scared when she turned around and saw that thing in the mirror.
the last hunt was incredible. we had seen the four out of five of “the big five”. elephant, buffalo, lion and the white rhino. now only one animal was missing to complete the safari of every mans dream. and it is the leopard. and they are so hard to spot. they are actually the hardest one and people spend weeks at game reserves without seeing a single one. in this area of about 30.000 hectares they only have three. at sundown ryaan asked us if we wanted to have the sundowners on the hill enjoying the view of the hippos or if we should give the leopard a try. apparently he knew that the leopard the same morning had been seen a few kilometers from where we where. and if we headed there right now we would maybe be able to see it. that said if the leopard even would return her the old kill. even if the chance still was very small we jumped in the landcruizer and headed of to the east part of shamwari. the hunt was on. and ryaan was so enthusiastic and we where more than sure that we couldn’t have a better guide for this.
ofcourse he found the leopards for us. or actually mum spotted it on a field a few hundred meters away. incredible since the sun had set a few minutes ago and it was pretty dark and hard to tell what was what. at first i thought that a rock in front of the car was the leopard so i got totally thrilled and felt so lucky to knew that i had seen the frickin coolest animal in the world. haha what i laughed when i found out i made everybody believe the leopard was a rock. damn i was wrong, haha.
ryaan though, who knows the area as his backpocket knew exaclty what to do. when he saw the female leopard walk with her cub into the forest he knew precisely where to place the cruizer. so he drew like a maniac around it and right after he turned off the large diesel engine we got the chance to spot them again. and this time so close so that my 70-200 lens almost was to long for taking a shoot at them. wow it was beautiful when the proudly walking down out of the hidden forest path, over the road and disappearing in the dark somewhere along the river. the few tenths of a minute it took them totally froze and we were all sooo thrilled. WOOOW we were lucky!
the whole thing was totally amazing. and we never stopped getting surpriced! on our way back from the leopard hunt we got to see the whole lion family feasting on another pray on top of a hill with the an amazing scenery and a totally red sunset behind us. it never stopped!
the dream had come true and all of us knew this wasn’t an ordinary safari. julie and ryaan made this personal in to every single thing. all the great sights on the game drives. the hunting. the glass of wine at the perfect spot. just after the cheetah sight. at the sunset. the hot sherry julie prepared and had done when we got back to the camp. the crispy sound of old music playing on something back from the early nineteen hundreds. the braii on the open fire and the pre-closed tents waiting with new made beds past the brook. the old paraffin lamps to let us get there safely. the sand and the water next to the tents to turn out the fire if something would go wrong with the lamps.
into every little detail everything was perfect.
and of course this was the first time during ryaans 30 years in the branch that he saw the big five on the same give drive. for the first time in his life! 30 years of beeing out there every day and we picked the right one. once again, wow!
big thanks to ryaan and julie
the smiles we had and the happiness we shared after the leopard hunt i think none of us will forget.