Original Source: yearinthewild
iSimangaliso is the country’s second largest protected area – about 3000 square kilometres – that extends in a long strip from Kosi Bay on the Mozambique border south for 300km to the town of St Lucia, where the waters of Lake St Lucia find their way into the Indian Ocean.
It was proclaimed as South Africa’s first world heritage site in 1994, and contains – supposedly – the most number of animal species than any other protected area on the continent (no doubt because of the inclusion of the marine offshore area, which contains thousands of coral and fish species, as well as its location within a tropical climatic zone – courtesy of the warm Agulhas current that pushes south from Mozambique). Hence the name – iSimangaliso – which means “place of wonders” in isiZulu.
It’s very diverse, and includes coral reefs in a marine offshore area, beaches, coastal forested dunes, rolling grasslands, bushveld, lakes, rivers and swamps. Because of the diverse landscapes, and because it’s long and narrow with various entry points, and because it has a non-descript road network in places, it can be a tricky place to get to know.
But if you have just two days to get to know it, then the best thing to do is explore the large southern portion near the town of St Lucia. Here you are most likely to see more wildlife than further north. And there’s no better person to guide you, in my opinion, than Kian Barker of Shakabarker Tours. Kian has a background in icthyology and game ranging at the prestigious Mala Mala, and is a true student of Africa’s wildlife and natural habitat. He has lived at St Lucia for more than 20 years, and is extremely knowledgeable.
On my last visit to iSimangaliso two years ago, I went on a night drive with Kian into the park, and was mesmerized by what we saw. So this time, I asked Kian if we could go again, and I was treated to two night drives into the park.
Undoubtedly the standout highlight was seeing a male leopard stalk and kill a grey duiker. What was amazing was the leopard’s hunting acumen and forward planning. Initially we saw the leopard in the tall grass, then watched as it bolted directly for the grey duiker, but didn’t catch it.
But what Kian and I first thought was a failed hunting attempt soon turned into a brilliant example of bluff and poker. The leopard had seemed to have spooked the duiker intentionally, because instead of wasting energy on chasing the duiker, the leopard then backed off quickly, and ran a big loop back around. It was then that the leopard’s strategy had become clear. The duiker – now just wanting to get away – was running directly towards the leopard, which was lying quietly in the grass. Eventually, the duiker walked right up to the leopard! Then the leopard simply had to pounce on the poor duiker, which let out three squeals, and then it was all over. Leopards are the ultimate hunters… wow!
Here are some photos from my time with Kian, as well as a few others that I took during daylight hours.
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