Wild Cats & the Nkhoro Farm

Nkhoro Private Game Park

Days 3-4

We arrived at the Nkhoro private game reserve in the middle of the afternoon. It was a wonderful, small farm in the middle of the bush, located in the Sabi Sands region; rife with game! An interesting feature was that there was no fencing to be found anywhere near the farm, or even around the lodging! We were told stories of lion roaming through the camp at night, literally passing by the front door's of the cabins! Sounded great! We met some colorful characters that day, and more stories abounded.

Our tracker spying out the game
We heard about the owner Dirk's previous dog who fought with 3 male lions and survived (after much suffering admittedly) only to die of pneumonia a while later. We saw evidence of elephant who trundled up to the trees about 5 meters from the front porch of the outdoor dining area and felled them after rubbing against them. What a life these people live!

Our fellow safari buddies in the second jeep.
After a mid-afternoon light dinner, we were ready for our afternoon - night ride. It made a pleasant change to be sitting in the open-topped, souped up 4x4 jeeps instead of the mini-van! The tracker sat in the front guiding the driver, our jeep had Johan driving; once again a very knowledgeable youngster who obviously loved his job. It was amazing to be able to drive to within a few meters of the animals, as the jeeps did not need to keep to the tracks. However, we did not see anything new until after our sun-downers (it was a nice little bonus to stop in the middle of the bush on a small hill and enjoy a few drinks).

An old lion we ran into during our night ride.
As we were leaving the hill we spotted out day's main highlight: an old male lion came wondering out of the bushes. Johan swung the jeep around and followed the lion until we were literally one meter from him. He was oblivious to us; it was explained to us that the animals were used to the vehicles, but as soon as someone stood up and broke the silhouette of the jeep we could be in trouble. What an experience to see this beast so close to us. We could see the blemishes and scars on him. It was an old, thin lion, apparently banished from his pride and not able to easily catch prey anymore on his own.

Johan our guide standing next to the jeep - just had a blow-out.
Johan thought the old timer would probably die if he did not eat soon. Nature can be cruel, but in no way can the rangers or wardens intervene to change the natural course of mother nature. We finally left the old lion and made our way back to the lodge. Dinner was waiting for us (again a wonderful potjie!) as we got back, and we rounded the evening off with a good few klipdrift brandies & coke (ahh, the good old days!) with Dirk, Johann, Nico, and the pool table (and a last-ditch swim in the pool before turning in!).

Leopard cub eating the impala caught by it's mother the night before.
It was our final morning; the fourth day of our safari. I would have loved to be able to stay many more! Although we still had an early morning ride (and, although we didn't know it yet, the highlight on the whole trip!), we were feeling quite sad that it was coming to an end. Johan had promised me a leopard, and after seeing so many different species it seemed not to be impossible - indeed not only did our rangers find leopard, but we must have just missed the kill: the mother had caught an impala earlier and pulled it into a tree to safety for the cubs to eat in peace.

Leopard mom looking out for her cubs. She had caught an impala the night before and dragged it into a tree for her kids to eat in peace.
It was unbelievable; the leopards were in a tree just above our heads, the mother looking out for her two cubs (and a little irritated at our presence) and one of the cubs tucking into the impala. Johan had done some great off-road maneuvering to place the jeep within spitting distance of the cub gnawing on the remains. We spent a long time just looking and taking photo's, blessing our good fortune at seeing this amazing sight! Any other sightings that morning would have paled in comparison; and we made our way back to the lodge to prepare for our departure.

It was actually with a heavy heart that we left Nhkoro; we had met some great characters and seem some extraordinary sights. I only wish we could have spent more time there; but I don't think my mom would have understood that reasoning! We all said our good-byes and jumped back into the good old mini-van. Nico was back in the driving seat and we returned to airport to catch our plane down to Cape Town. Nico, thanks for a great experience. Theresa and I often think about our trip and still get excited about our photo's. Dirk and Johan, thanks to you too, your lodge was fantastic and thanks for the leopards!

Learn more about the Kruger National Park here.