Wilson was our Masai Guide in the Naboisho conservancy of the Mara. He had heard of a leopard kill that had occurred on the conservancy in a wooded area before the great plain of Naboisho. That afternoon we set off to find the leopard.
We were driving along when Marius shouted “stop, I see a leopard”. All I saw was an impala. “Look, she’s focused on something. She’s alert”. We scanned under the umbrellas of the acacias. “There it is. Sorry, not a leopard, but a hyena. It’s moving. Quick, Wilson, follow it.” Wilson turned off the track into the bush and we drove after the hyena. We lost and found it twice, and then as we lost it a third time Marius jumped up through the viewing hatch and pointed at a young male leopard running from where we last saw the hyena. The leopard slipped gracefully over a steep gully into the opposite side of a gentle valley that mirrored where we were.
“Shh, what’s that noise?” I listened as Wilson cut the motor. I heard crunching from a clump of bushes to our right. Quick as a flash the hyena loped off with the hind leg of the kill that his mother had made the day before. He was no match for an adult hyena, and his mother would be back with more meat soon. There was just so much game around. “Quick, follow it”. Marius was shaking his finger to hurry up, both of us up through the viewing hatch with cameras ready on sandbags.
We found the hyena under a tree in a clump of grass, thick shoulders standing over the hind leg of a small wildebeest. He looked up, then bent down and devoured most of the leg in a crunching flash. Bone splintered and gristle was chewed two or three times before swallowing. We were with him for five minutes before he moved off and we both said “let’s go find the leopard” and gave high fives.
We drove uphill along the gully looking for a place to pass. We scanned the opposite slope to no avail. We passed a small pan with cake dried mud. We had been searching for over thirty minutes now and Marius piped up: “Look at the patterns on the mud. Let’s shoot some abstracts.” I did, half heartedly, as I would rather be looking at leopard rosettes. We drove on, found a crossing and moved down again to where we found the leopard. We spotted him again, darting into some bush.
We gave up when we lost him again, and in the twilight started for camp. We stopped for sundowners at the dried pan again. It was yet another beautiful African sunset and we were well satisfied. Wilson was stills scanning. “There it is, under the tree.” The leopard was lying facing us across the gully not even 10 metres away from where I had taken some abstract pictures of mud.
“Geez, Marius. Here you are telling me to take abstracts of mud and there’s a leopard under the bush ten meters away. Some guide you are,” I winked.