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Londolozi – A sort of homecoming

Marthly Leopard

Londolozi – A sort of homecoming

Would Spirit the cross-bred terrier just shut up!?  It’s far too early to be barking at Quackers N. Cheese – the poor duck needs a decent rest from his relentless window tapping.  “Bark, tap, tap, bark, morning, bark, tap, tap tap, morning, your coffee sir”.   This is just too much, Quackers is now talking and offering me a morning coffee no less.  “Quackers!  Spirit! shut up!”  I sit bolt upright in bed and my strange surroundings wash over me – an enormous, and enormously comfortable bed, perfectly starched pristine linen, soft puffy pillows, that delightful smell of thatch and the distant waking medley of a White-browed Scrub Robin drifts into the room.  I am not at home in Cape Town, that is not Spirit barking, but a Bushbuck, the tap tap is Robbie the obliging butler and it is he, not a wannabe human Dutch Quacker duck that is offering me a delicious cup of coffee.  I have woken at Londolozi, a place I once called home, so I guess I can be somewhat forgiven for my garbled dream confusing a past home with a present one…

After a quick dose of caffeine, throwing on some clothes and a splash of water to my face, Melvin my guide is ready to usher me swiftly to the waiting Land Rover – no time to lose this morning.  That Bushbuck is pretending to be a small rescue dog for good reason and our Melvin wants to find out why.  The barking has come from North of the Sand River on the Marthly portion of the 15 000ha Private Game Reserve that guests have access to here.  Through the gentle flowing waters of the Sand River we go, the Land Rover stopping briefly to let a small Nile crocodile scuttle out of our way.  Later in the day, the very same reptile will be found, mouth wide, head pointing upstream and poised to snatch any unfortunate fish swimming too close.  We drive deliberately towards the source of the alarm call – a surprisingly loud and “dog like” sound, pausing every so often to sit in silence, listening for more clues to the telling of the unfolding story.  As the African sun peaks over the Eastern horizon behind us, we edge along the Northern bank of the river, the water now lightly glazed in a soft orange glow and there in front of us stands a Bushbuck ram, exposed on a small sand spit, staring determinedly in a North-easterly direction, seemingly frozen to the spot.  “Bah, bah!”  The loud dog-like bark breaks the morning stillness again and the body of the antelope shudders on delivery of the alarm, his eyes remain fixed, boring through the morning mist floating up off the ground.  Even though we can’t yet see what has the ram so flustered, we know that the game is up.  Whatever is causing such alarm has been “outed”.  Six pairs of binoculars scan the area he is looking towards, desperately hoping for a rosetted cat to reveal themselves – this is Londolozi after all, so surely it is a leopard causing all the fuss.  Needless to say, it is the un-aided eyesight of Milton, who is casually reclining on the tracker’s seat on the front left of the vehicle, that soon sees what has the buck so bothered.  An excited finger snap is followed by exaggerated pointing across the bonnet of the car, we all follow Milton’s finger and stare in great anticipation, hoping to see what he has seen…

Movement breaks the stillness of the reeds and there she is, a gorgeous feline now delicately picking her way across the large smooth granite boulders that blend seamlessly with the exposed sand on the river banks.  She seems annoyed, her tail flicking in an agitated fashion.  The bushbuck barks again and bolts in a flurry of leaves and dust.  Not long after, the glorious female leopard flops down onto the granite boulder and begins grooming, licking her paws and wiping her face, licking and wiping – just like Mico the Burmese back home.  Goodness, it is good to be home.  Coming back to Londolozi always feels like coming home.