On a pitch dark night in Kruger National Park, we saw two dangling legs in a tall tree and two bright eyes reflecting our flashlights. The legs clearly belonged to an Impala. But how could an impala get up so high? The eyes were clearly of a jungle cat. Which jungle cat could it be? Could it be a leopard? We were so intrigued.
We took the Protea Hotel Kruger Gate game drive at night. It was organized and led by Kruger National Park and purchased at the Kruger Gate. It can be booked with a phone call to the Kruger Gate but needs to be purchased in person. The Safari truck picks up passengers at the Protea Hotel by Mariott near the Kruger Gate.
The park had closed at sunset and we were the only group allowed in the Kruger National Park. The jungle was very quiet as it was time for the lions and many big cats to go hunting. It was also time for hyenas to go looking for leftover meats from the big cat hunts.
Returning to the story of the dead impala, missing leopard, and thieving genet cat…
Our guide pointed up at what looked like two dangling legs in a tall tree. He said it was an impala. But how did the impala get up so high in the tree?
He explained that leopards like to hunt and devour impalas. To keep scavengers from getting to the prize, leopards drag their prey up tall trees. Once in the trees, the leopard can feast on the Impala for 2-4 days. Generally, leopards don’t even leave for a drink as they get all the nourishment and fluids from the Impala.
That night we wondered, could the sparkling eyes be of a leopard feasting in the trees? Alas, there was no leopard in sight. What was staring at us was a different wildcat – the nocturnal genet cat. He was a thief, stealing a leopard’s prized kill. The genet cat should know better than that! When the leopard returns, there will be a fight and it will not end well for the genet.
The leopard had gone missing. We waited and waited for the leopard to appear. We continued our night drive safari in Kruger and returned. Then, we waited some more.
The wait was fun because our knowledgeable ranger shared many stories of leopards in the wild in Kruger – their power dynamics, territorial nature, social hierarchy, family life etc. For example, the male leopards have solitary lives and have enormous territories to themselves. Leopard territories are independent territories of other animals like lions, hippos etc. Male leopards even allow multiple female leopards to pass through or live in their territories but will fight other male leopards to assert dominance. The female leopards care for the offsprings, although males interact with offsprings, reportedly even for multiple generations.
Ultimately we gave up and went back to the comfort of the hotel for the night.
We returned early the following morning to see if the missing leopard was back. But, the jungle was dead silent. No leopard or genet cat or impala or vultures or any other animals were to be seen. We drove back and forth, but without a guide this time, we thought we lost the tree.
Just then we saw another safari jeep driving up with a group of tourists. Their guide knew exactly which tree had the impala the previous night. She too was surprised! The impala, the leopard, and the genet cat were all gone! She had not expected such a large impala to be eaten so quickly. No one knew what drama had transpired in the jungle after we went to bed.
What do you think happened?
Some mysteries of the jungle at night stayed unsolved for us. We drove along and enjoyed the morning in Kruger National Park on our self-drive morning safari.
We continued enjoying Kruger National Park and Southern Africa on our 14-day trip. (This was just our 4th day of the trip.)
You will also love other wildlife encounter stories –
- Lioness and her cubs crossing the path filled with dangers.
- Sociable weavers thriving in scarcity.
- Miraculous recovery of the African Penguin.
- An unbelievable video of a leopard hunt by BBC.
I would highly recommend taking at all three game drives offered by the Kruger National Park at the Protea Kruger Gate – morning drive, night drive, and morning walk. You’re better off going self-driving the rest of the day. Read tips for traveling in South Africa for more.
Do you have an interesting wildlife story? Do share below.