What follows is a firsthand encounter of two recent guests who visited MalaMala.
Donna Bourdon and Beverly Still travelled all the way from Chattanooga, Tennessee in the US to see MalaMala’s magnificent wildlife, in particular its famed leopards.
They weren’t disappointed.
They saw a grand total of five individual leopards while they were here, as well as two other rather extraordinary sightings.
Standing at our Land Rover in Southern Africa, our guide asked for a show of hands. “Who is here to see animals and who of you are birders?”
“Birders!?” we gasped, “What a silly question. We’re not birders! We’re here for THE BIG FIVE!”
Fast forward to eight years later.
We’ve arrived at MalaMala Game Reserve. We’re here for the leopards.
We climbed onboard our Land Rover with thirty three pounds of camera equipment, binoculars dangling, and the cyber list of MalaMala’s leopards imprinted in our brains.
Our ranger, Grant Roodt, asked if we were birders.
That word again. No, we ain’t no stinking birders. We arranged this private tour specifically so we would not have to stop for any birds.
But Grant’s excitement at hearing the call of the first Woodland Kingfisher of the season uncovered our deepest, innermost secret.
We were birders after all. And our bird of choice – the Lilac Breasted Roller – is surely the most beautiful bird of them all.
On the first morning drive of our visit we were heading straight to the Matshipiri female leopard, when a very unusual sighting distracted us from our mission.
A Lilac Breasted Roller swooped down and caught a scorpion, which it then proceeded to toss into the air. Grant explained that the Roller was attempting to break off the scorpion’s pinchers with each toss.
His plan – to safely swallow his prey.
Grant then swiftly maneuvered our Land Rover close enough for a photo. Without spooking the bird, he skillfully positioned us so that we could take advantage of the warm morning light illuminating both the Roller and the scorpion.
We immediately shot off fifty pictures (no need to be frugal in the digital age). And in doing so, managed to document every aspect of the “the kill”.
This bird sighting was one of the highlights of our visit to MalaMala. Others included up close and personal encounters with five individual leopards, and a special croc sighting at the Bicycle Crossing Hippo Pools.
Our experience was made even more special by our ranger, Grant Roodt. He charmed us with his expert knowledge of animals and birds, his tracking skills, his off-road driving prowess, his understanding of “possessed” amateur photographers and his South African gallantry.
And every evening he would conjure up a very mean, very dry martini over which to discuss the day’s adventures.
Our compliments to MalaMala. We could not have enjoyed ourselves more. And we got some of the best pictures and video of our lives.
Donna Bourdon and Beverly Still
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA”