Day 2 Morning Drive: Spotting The Elusive Leopard
November 26, 2007 — Masai Mara
After a long day yesterday, we were tired. Being on safari can be tiring on the eyes from all the searching. But being that I wake up with pretty much any noise, I didn't sleep much. There were monkeys and other unidentifiable creatures in the trees fighting and making strange and at times downright scary growling and hissing noises. At one point I heard something on our porch and looking out in the moonlight saw a monkey sitting on our porch furniture making himself at home. At other times monkeys and small beasts were scampering around over our heads on the roof of the tent. I also heard large animals (hippos or elephants) stamping around in the creek bed below.
At sunrise, a guy came by and greeted us in swahili ("jambo") and brought us a thermos of tea. We met our same driver, Simon, along with his intern Joseph and the two brits we went out with yesterday. Rather than go on an early morning game drive, come back and have breakfast, and then then go back out for a late morning drive, we had our breakfast packed in a box so we could consolidate our drive into one long one... to see if we could spot a leopard.
We set off across the savannah, grasslands dotted with the occasional umbrella-like acacia, stitched together with meandering rivers with forested banks rutted by hippos and other game making it's way to the water. We woke up some hyenas, a mother with a radio-collar and her baby.
Simon was on a mission to go far and wide for a leopard. Only thing is we got way out in the middle of nowhere and the steering column broke. So we had to wait for a mechanic. As we were waiting, I wandered around on the barren plain. Up close I was shocked to discover how trampled and eaten and generally decimated the grass was, and how many bones and carcasses and piles of shit there were. The aftermath of the mass migration last month.
After some time trying to communicate to the mechanic where we were, he finally showed and we took his landcruiser. Looking back as we drove off, the mechanic fixed ours in like 10 seconds and drove off.
We continued on our quest to find a leopard. We drove along the edge of this river, scanning the trees and bushes. We spent a great deal of time looking intently. While leopards are not as rare as rhinos, they are harder to spot, probably the hardest of the big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo). Along the way we saw a tortoise, baboons, a big python and a lot of the other usual stuff like lions, zebras, impalas and one of my favorites, warthogs.
Simon decided to check this last island of brush and just when we had looked everywhere, we turned a corner and there was our leopard. Truly a beautiful creature.
After seeing such an animal, I felt like I could die peacefully. The leopard takes the cake.
We mosied back to the camp, seeing more of everything. The only thing we hadn't seen of the big 5 were elephants, though cheetahs are up there for me and we hadn't seen one of them yet. But we were going out again in the afternoon.
(c) 2007 Derek White & Jessica Fanzo