I cannot even begin to tell you how much I enjoy spending time in the Bushveld. My favourite place in the world is Motswari, a private game reserve in the Timbavati Region of South-Africa. When I visited Motswari last month, I had a stunning encounter with a leopard… and there was a lesson in that experience that I treasure with all my heart.
If I know anything about leopards, it's that they are elusive. It is such a blessing to happen on one – but it's the exception rather than the rule. In fact, during the five days I spent at Motswari, everyone in the camp was hoping to see one of these spellbinding creatures on a game drive. But no luck.
It became a bit of a joke in camp. The first question we asked each party when they entered the camp was what they saw… Lions? Yes. Elephants? Of course. Buffalo? Yip. Rhino? For sure. Leopard? No, no, no. Not a chance…
On my third night at Motswari, I arranged to go for a sleep-over at Giraffe's Nest, a hide in the middle of the African bush, overlooking Xanatsi Dam. It was just going to be me, perched three metres above the ground, under the stars, with my camera, a bottle of wine and a picnic dinner. I could scarcely contain my excitement…
I settled in on the viewing deck and took in my surroundings. I found myself merging with a serenity that was palpable. There was nothing to do other than synchronising my breath, body, mind and soul with the rhythms of nature at its beautiful best.
It wasn't long before I saw a movement in the grass on the other side of the dam. I grabbed my camera and zoomed in… It was a leopard…. and beyond my wildest expectations, SHE came to ME.
I learned later that her name was Shongile (meaning 'beautiful'). And she WAS absolutely dazzling. This photo is one of only a few grab shots that I took, which was all I had time for before she disappeared into the bushes.
Shongile taught me that sometimes all the trying and pushing and pursuing and striving in the world accomplish nothing… that sometimes we just have to let go. I can't help but smile when I think of how hard we tried to find a leopard in the days before my visit to Giraffe's Nest, and then, when I least expected it, she showed up in her own time.
PS. Life is extraordinary… how blessed are we!