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Africa Geographic
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As with many great stories, this one started around a campfire when guests and staff at Umlani Bush Camp in the Timbavati wilderness were taken on an unexpected late night chase. 

Camp Manager Greg McCall-Peat recalls: “On Saturday night, while guests were sitting around the fire after dinner, the silence of the night was broken by the whooping and laughing of hyenas in the riverbed in front of the lodge.

spotted-hyena

Ephraim, who is one of our trackers, went to have a look at what was going on and quickly returned to fetch the guests. A female leopard had killed a bushbuck and the leopard’s meal was being stolen by the hyenas! We all hurried down to the swimming pool only to see the leopard relinquish her kill and retreat away from the marauding hyenas.

We bundled everyone onto the game drive vehicle and headed out to get a closer look at the action, which had now moved to the waterhole in front of the camp. On arriving at the scene, there were about six hyenas but no sign of the leopard. Then, in the glow of the spotlight, something caught our eye. A large male leopard was slowly approaching the chaos.

hyenas-at-night

We didn’t expect him to do anything as he was clearly outnumbered, but he proved us wrong as he charged into the feeding frenzy to try to steal the kill. This surprising move, coupled with his aggression, sent hyenas scattering in every direction. His victory was short-lived, however, as the hyenas soon realised that they had the advantage and charged back at the leopard, this time sending him running for cover.

leopard

The sighting then took an amazing turn. As he ran off, he ran straight into the female leopard! The two leopards had a quick altercation before the female ran off with the male hot on her heels.

Trying to keep up with them wasn’t easy and we soon came across another addition to the chaos – a THIRD leopard! He was a young male – probably the offspring of the female – watching all the action from a nearby thicket. We stayed with him for a short while until one of the hyenas chased him off.

leopard-night

With all the leopards now out of sight and the hyenas left squabbling over the scraps, we decided it was a good time to head back to camp and try to get some sleep after all the excitement.

hyena

However, the grand finale was still yet to come. As we were driving up the road back to the lodge, one of the hyenas came running past us with a rather large chunk of meat in its mouth. It had run up the road and out of our headlights when we suddenly heard a loud growl followed by squeals from the hyena.

hyena-at-night

As we arrived on the scene, we found the hyena desperately searching for its meat, which was now nowhere to be found. Movement to our right caught our eyes and we saw the big male leopard in a nearby tree feeding on the remains of the kill.

leopard-tree

Persistence had paid off for him; he had finally won his prize and was now enjoying the meal at his leisure. We watched him feed for a while before deciding it really was time to call it a night and we headed back to the camp to reflect on what we had just witnessed.

leopard-male-umlani

To end a day in such a way is a truly amazing experience and it just goes to show that you never know what to expect out there in the African bush. Anything can happen.

Ndumu River Lodge
Umlani Bushcamp

Umlani Bushcamp is located in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, which shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. This is true Big 5 territory and guests have an opportunity to see lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino on safe, expertly guided game drives and bush walks.