The signs were there from the start. We flew over ribbons of water where game paths criss-crossed the floodplain between islands of trees. Dry channels snaked through the veld and we spotted herds of elephant, buffalo and giraffe. Here in Botswana’s Okavango Delta we were about to have the best game drive of our lives.
On our first afternoon game drive we went north through tall blond turpentine grass. We saw giraffe, zebra and a clutch of kudu with a big bull that stood and watched us, his nose and ears twitching. We drove through mixed woodland of large fever-berry, ebony, sicklebush and magic guarrie trees, and learnt that ostriches are partial to the wild jasmine creeper we saw spreading along the ground.
They were just two months old, their eyes still grey-blue, their fur fluffy. Phinley told us they were a brother and sister. ‘Their mother has gone out hunting and left them here because they’re too small to take with her. She left this morning to hunt in an area where there are lions and spotted hyenas.’
Mesmerised, we told Phinley we had no need to find anything else that afternoon. So the three of us sat and watched them play for about two and a half hours, the day cooling around us and turning to night.
Eventually she got fed up. Pestering him with little comeback wasn’t much fun so she went off on an adventure of her own, exploring the fallen log and climbing into little gaps between branches, testing her claws on a vertical branch but wisely deciding not to climb it.
And then it was dark and Phinley decided to leave them to crawl back into their secret hiding place to stay safe while they waited for mom.
About four years ago we watched a mom and two leopard cubs of about six months old for a few minutes in Etosha National Park in Namibia, and we considered it to be the best sighting of our lives. Here at Chitabe Lediba in the Okavango, we’d outdone that by a million miles.
Note: I was a guest of Wilderness Safaris for two nights, but the opinions are mine.
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