Friday Lens Affair 244

Leopard in Savuti Game Reserve, Botswana

This week I’m featuring a spectacular shot from the Savuti Game Reserve taken by Shara Johnson from the SKJ Travel Blog.

Shara plots her travels abroad from her home in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

She casually maintains a narrative and photographic blog to share her travel experiences, hoping to entertain, inform and inspire others to see the world.

She also writes literary nonfiction and rents a guest studio in her home to other travellers. Do follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Story: Savuti Game Reserve

One afternoon our safari guide in the Savuti Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta of Botswana spotted fresh leopard prints in the sand and was convinced there was a leopard hiding in the bushes just beyond the tracks where we could take our vehicle.

We drove round and round a large table rock formation, stopping every few minutes to scrutinize the landscape, feeling as if we were being taunted.

Although I was very excited at the prospect of seeing it, I felt that it would be greedy to actually hope for it, as we had already had one phenomenal close-up experience with a leopard in Khwai Concessions.

So I didn’t feel sad when we had to give up as the sun set and we headed back to camp.

Our guide, however, felt very dissatisfied with our unsuccessful evening, seeming to take the leopard’s absence rather personally, and the next morning he headed straight back over to that rock.

Suddenly he stopped the vehicle and, turning it off, said with satisfaction, “There she is!”

I looked all around the landscape in the tall grass and bushes, and could not see what he was talking about. But I was being narrow-minded about where an animal would prefer to be!

Finally, I saw a magnificent leopard right in front of us (and felt pretty stupid it took me so long), perched calmly upon a cement block beside the road that was painted with an arrow to direct tourists to some ancient rock paintings.

The block provided her with a perfect raised vantage point to scope out a meal wandering through the bush.

With a regal and self-possessed beauty, she sat very still as I giddily held down my camera’s shutter button.

Then I put my camera down and just absorbed her silent intensity as she honed in on a lone impala.

Unaware of her presence, it nibbled at grasses in the distance while she gazed dispassionately.

Sometimes we ascribe anthropomorphically complex thoughts to animals, but she seemed to be thinking only on an instinctual level: “prey.”

Shortly, she jumped down off the block and began slinking toward the antelope.

We watched her as she patiently watched her prey, gradually stalking closer and closer.

Eventually, a kori bustard bumbled into the scene and squawked out an alarm call which spooked the Impala.

The leopard gave a half-hearted chase, then slowed down and disappeared into the brush.

Now is when I felt sad — sad that she was gone, and mad at the bushes who cloaked her in their depths for breaking the spell she had put on us with her wildness and grace.

The Botswana Savuti Game Reserve lies south of Linyanti and covers an area of over 5000 square kilometres in the western section of Chobe National Park in Botswana.

Savuti is famous for its predators, especially its resident lions, leopards and spotted hyena populations.

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