On our second last day at the Return to the Heart Retreat at Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa, we had spent the whole day tracking a leopardess but she remained illusive! Instead we saw elephants, lions, hyenas and more, and had a wonderful day on the game drive, with loads of insights. I admit I was rather disappointed to not have found the leopardess as I feel a special infinity with the cats. We arrived back at Varty Camp and had our group dinner/coaching session (btw, the food is to die for!) with Koelle Simpson, our master coach.
On the very first day of our stay at Varty Camp we were given strict rules around going out at night alone without a Camp Porter in case we encountered any wild animals who might have wondered into the camp. Of course, we all obeyed this rule, but I kept wondering what is an unarmed Porter, carrying only a flashlight, going to do if we did?!
That second last evening we were escorted back to our room as always and I didn’t think twice about encountering a wild animal (as we never had). However, we had a wonderful surprise! We were blessed with a female leopard at the doorstep to our suite! I was surprised at my lack of fear of her (did I mention I’m afraid of the dark and things that lurk in it?). Our suite was the last one in the row and we had dropped everyone else off at their suite.
The Porter told us to move back (we were about 20 feet away from her), called for “backup” and large gentleman came to our rescue. I fully expected the “back up” to have been armed but to my surprise he had only a flashlight as did our Porter. He positioned himself in front of us and began to walk towards the leopardess. Again surprised at my lack of fear, I was right behind him! Somehow I sensed that she meant no harm.
As he approached her, flicking the light at her, she slowly moved off. She went under the walkway and under the deck of our room. As she did this we quickly entered the deck area to get into our room (which in hindsight could have been dangerous since she could have easily jumped onto the deck). There was a light that shown onto the bush veld and we saw her continuing to move away. Then suddenly she turned around and looked at me as if to say, “You’ve got this, girl! There is nothing to be afraid of in the dark – just keep your wits about you, slowly walk towards the fear and the fear will move away”.
With so much love in my heart for this land and its animals and people, I remain truly humbled and grateful for this wonderful transformative experience. I will be back, Africa!