Leopard! Kruger National Park

Today, we fly back home. There is time for a morning ride before we drive back from Kruger to Johannesburg. As I write this from the plane, my heart is once again with Simi. Just before boarding, I called and got news that Simi is “listless” and had to be taken for another blood transfusion. There is not much we can do here, but now I wish we had cut short our trip and gone back home to be with her. Even with all the wildlife and all our experiences, all I want at this moment is to hold her in my arms and comfort her. All I can do at this point is hope that she will be okay when we land in Arizona. I can’t wait for her to start wagging her little tail and smile. She has the most amazing dog-smile ever!

Morning Ride: The ride started slowly today. Animals were scarce. It was cold and cloudy. There was a Belgian couple on their honeymoon who joined us last night and this morning. We chanced upon a few elephants grazing nearby. At a distance we saw a few more. At a further distance, we saw a few dozen more! It was great to be surrounded by these gentle giants all around us.

We saw leopard tracks going in the direction opposite from where we were headed. We drove on saw a Gabar’s Goshawk female eating what looked like a mouse. After she was finished, she flew to the tree nearby where a male was waiting. He courted her for a minute and then they mated! Gabar’s Goshawks nest in Kruger. As we crossed a river on a bridge, we saw a few wading birds (Blacksmith Lapwing, Three-banded Plover). Soon, we saw a pair of Klipsingers sitting on a rock in perfect light by the river. Klipsinger is a small antelope that favors river-banks. It was perched on a rock in perfect sunlight!

On the radio, Mika got a call about a leopard sighting. He suspected it was the same leopard whose tracks we had seen earlier. Immediately, we backtracked and drove to where the leopard was sighted. As soon as we reached the area, the leopard climbed down a tree and started walking in the grass towards us. He crossed the road (see picture) in front of us and climbed up a rock and up a tree.

He was out on a hunt surveying the landscape for game. There was plenty of game around. He climbed down and sat on the rock in full attention. Something had caught his eye. It was probably the weakest animal in the heard of Impala, or maybe a lone Kudu. He soon climbed down the rock and disappeared.

The rest of the day was pretty drab. I am sad to leave South Africa today. The food, the wine, the animals, the birds, the terrain, the people, the culture, the music, the bush; all of it has made my mind and my soul richer.

Now we head back home to the routine of life. My heart and my mind are with Simi. We land in London in about an hour. After a seven-hour halt and a 10+ hour flight, we will be home!

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