The green season (the rainy season) is one of my favorite times to be on safari – all the wildflowers are out, wildebeest are calving and the wilderness seems more alive than ever. One of the challenges, however, can be getting around.

It was the last day of our safari and Hannah and I wanted to scout out a spot for our final sundowners together.  A few kilometers behind camp is a set of kopies (rocky outcrops of large granite boulders), often unreachable due to the rains and the small drainage lines one has to cross to get there. After the camp crew advised us it would not be possible, Hannah and I could not resist. So, after lunch at siesta time we jumped into a car along with Langeti and headed out towards the kopies. Immediately it was clear this was not going to be a “walk in the park.” In 4-wheel drive second gear we were just managing not to bottom out in the thick mud and keeping up speed was essential. Suddenly Hannah shouted, “Lions!” I yelled back,” Where?” Hannah replied, “Right in front of us!” Now, where to stop?

Pulling slightly off the small track we managed to come to a halt and hoped we weren’t now stuck. Sure enough, there in a beautiful acacia tortillis were a bunch of lions up in the tree, six to be exact. We stopped and watched this amazing midday find. We started to wonder what all the growling was about and realized that the male lion who was the furthest up the tree was eating something – strange by all accounts for a lion to be eating this far up a tree. With our binoculars we realized he was eating a baboon. Now the plot starts to thicken; how did a large male lion catch a baboon up a tree and, if he did, why didn’t he eat it on the ground?

We raised camp on the radio and asked for our guests to be awakened from their siestas and brought to this amazing sighting so close to camp. Langeti soon asked his million-dollar question, “Why does that bird’s nest right on the end of that branch have a tail?”  We quickly grabbed our binoculars and focused on this precarious nest on the end of a branch. Spots! It’s a leopard! A female leopard was hanging precariously on the furthest branch. Our minds quickly started putting the pieces together: the leopard had killed the baboon and stashed it in the tree.  The lions had picked up the scent from the drag mark and stolen the baboon from her and now had her cornered at the top of the tree. Seven large cats in one tree!  The deep gritty growls from the leopardess were being answered by the guttural growls of the six lions as the standoff continued.

Our second car arrived with our guests and we watched as this amazing scene unfolded.

The leopard, now drenched in sweat and panting as she became overheated and stressed in the midday sun, was looking anxiously for a chance to break for cover.  Eventually the clumsy male lion dropped the baboon carcass and followed it to the ground along with three of the other lionesses. Seeing this opportunity, the leopard started creeping down the branch towards the lionesses, teeth bared and making some rather horrendous noise as she confronts them.  The lionesses hold their ground and backwards and forwards the game plays out, until the leopard advanced and lashed out at one of the lionesses.  Using the chaos as cover, she raced down the tree and off into the thick bush.  All six lions followed her to no avail. We then spotted her as she shot up a very tall thin yellow fever tree, which she knew the lions had no chance of climbing.

What an incredible midday sighting right behind camp and a reminder that defying the elements (and the camp crew!) in search of the perfect sundowner spot can lead to great things!

We can’t wait to be back on safari again.