Written by: Steven Bekker
On a cold evening in the Cederberg Mountains I am making the way from a friends house to the cottage I am staying at by the dim light of a borrowed torch. About five meters from the house I stop. Two eyes light up in the beam of my flashlight. There is something lying on the ground in front of me.
It gets up and turns to walk off calmly along the path to my cottage. I turn around and walk back to the house. I ask my friend Dawie, “How can I tell the difference between a caracal and a Cape leopard because I think I just saw a cat.”
Dawie jumps up and walks with me to the place where I saw it. We follow the path but I am sure that we are not going to find the mysterious feline again.
Dawie asks what was the size of the animal. I show him the height and he replies, “That’s a leopard!”.
We walk down the path to arrive at an open space. On the other side of a small river two eyes light up.
Dawie whispers, “It’s an owl”. But he is in doubt and we wait. The eyes move. “It’s not an owl. It’s a leopard, ” Dawie whispers.
After a while the leopard seats itself on a rock less than 30 meters away from us. Dawie takes pictures but because of the limited light it is very hard to get a good picture. I am holding the flashlight which suddenly goes dead. Batteries dead. Total darkness.
Dawie whispers, “Back off, slowly”. We walk back to the house to charge the light and get other lights. We take a breath from our adventure and I think it’s over. We won’t find it again but we set off anyway with more lights to search for it again.
After searching in a couple of places, Dawie climbs a rock to get a better view and whispers, “there it is again”. We manage to spend a few brief moments in the darkness with it before it moves off again.
After a while I go back to my cottage on the same path but with a different feeling. My first Cape leopard – not bad for my first week in the Cederberg Mountains!