Gawie Grobler

NAME: Gawie Grobler





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Should you do it or not?...

This diary entry took place at Lion Sands Private Game Reserve

I used to take a small video camera on game drive (safari) to capture those special moments out there. Not an expensive one, just something to show the people back home what I do and maybe to get that once in a lifetime opportunity to win a 4x4 bakkie on 50/50’s Veldfocus! It is always good to capture rare things happening out there and to build up a library of sightings. After a while the library gets fuller and fuller and more difficult to add to. We all know that not one day is the same in the bush, but I often see many of the same things time and again and sometimes wonder if it's worth taking the camera along. That’s maybe why so many young guides leave the industry, to get a 'real' job…  You have to keep up with the routine otherwise you will miss that special moment.

My story starts like this:

I was on game drive during a cold July morning and the usual suspects were out: impala, kudu, warthog, and giraffe. Lions had also been seen that morning but we were looking for the most beautiful and illusive of the large cats. It took us a while to find some tracks of a leopard. The tracks happen to be of a male leopard and they were relatively fresh. My tracker and I followed the tracks, leaving the vehicle on numerous occasions to trail them through the bush and back on the road. We were determined to find this animal. Sometimes I think that I want to see the leopard more than my guests want to. That’s maybe why it’s my favorite. We managed to find the male strolling down the road after about an hour of intense tracking.

We followed him for a while when another vehicle joined us. The leopard went off-road. We continued to follow him. We went onto a huge crest where lots of Marulass and sparse Terminalia forest were. There were also a lot of aardvark burrows and holes around, so we had to be careful about the route we chose with the vehicle. The leopard started sniffing around and walked straight to one hole in the ground. He was quite careful in the way he approached it. I thought that perhaps this would be the day that I will see a leopard catching an aardvark! I noticed that the excavated sand was flattened and smooth, almost as if someone had dragged a canvas cover over a sand heap. The leopard almost went down the hole but at the last moment decided that there was no potential meal on the inside. There was a definite trail mark in the grass left by whatever exited that hole, and it had headed south. The master started following the sent marks, always aware of its surroundings. All of a sudden one of the trackers shouted: “SNAKE!!” with a heavy Shangaan accent. It turned out to be a four and a half meter African rock python about five meters in front of the leopard! The leopard saw it about two seconds later and approached with caution. The serpent was out in the sun basking and with all the commotion of the two vehicles started testing the air. It was rather lethargic during that stage due to the fact that it must have been only about 10 degrees Celsius. It immediately curled up into the defense posture when it picked up the smell of the predator. The leopard weighed up all its options and as if a lightning bolt struck, the leopard gave it a slap with the left paw and got a hold of the snake behind the head. He did it with such precision and skill, as if it has been doing it for a living. The serpent tried to curl up and get a hold of its opponent but the leopard was too clever, avoiding all the curls of the serpent’s body. And with a final bite and crush of the head, the snake died. Almost like a tire that’s deflating, the snake’s body stopped moving.

The leopard dragged it a ways through the grass and started feeding off it. A while later it pulled the snake into a Marula tree where you could actually see the enormity of the serpent's body. The guests on my vehicle couldn’t believe their eyes (nor could I) and the best of all was that that morning, I had decided to leave my camera at home! I wanted to kick myself where it really hurts.

My fellow ranger, who is now my wife, took her camera along and got some great pictures.

So if you've ever in doubt: take that camera along.

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