The Timbavati is known for its leopards and Umlani Bushcamp has one very special resident female that has stolen many hearts, including mine. Her name is Rockfig Jnr – a beautiful blue-eyed female that I have had the pleasure of watching grow up to become one of the most successful adult leopards in the Timbavati.
She is a supermodel and almost every time I see her she seems to be striking a pose for pictures. She plays up for the camera – dreamily rolling around on her back, legs in the air all whilst giving you ‘the look’ with her big blue eyes.
One of my most memorable sightings of her was when she was younger, just coming into independence. This is a trying time for a young leopard as it is a time of crossing over from being a playful, inexperienced cub to becoming one of the most efficient hunters in Africa.
Rockfig Jnr was sitting on the edge of a small pool of water that was boiling with trapped catfish. This should be an easy meal for a youngster who isn’t sure of herself and her capabilities in bringing down big prey. She sat for a good half an hour, fixated on the movement in the water below her, thinking how she could capture one of these slippery morsels. One of my guests asked me how she would catch a fish? Would she jump in? My answer was: “She is a cat. They hate water so she will probably just paw one out. She’d rather get a wet paw than get completely drenched.”
No sooner had I said this, she suddenly leapt into the pool, missing all of the fish in her attempt to attack, and then proceeded to frantically try to get out as fast as she could, splashing with her front paws and clawing at the water. She eventually made it back to the edge and dragged herself out, not only looking embarrassed but also very much like a drowned rat.
It was one of the funniest things I have seen, but also such a special moment to witness her learning that lesson. Nowadays, to see her as a gorgeous adult, an excellent mother and an efficient hunter is something very few people get to witness and I consider myself very lucky.
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.