If your options were a pride of half sleeping lions along a riverbed surrounded by buffalo, waterbuck and giraffe or a warthog carcass hanging in the tree next to a major park road with no leopard in sight, where would you choose to park your car?  Not a bad decision to make but that was the choice I was facing late one afternoon near the Satara campsite.  It was about 4pm, which meant there were only a two hours left before everyone had to be back into campsites for the 6pm curfew. Though I never got an official answer as to why the 6pm curfew, I’m almost certain it is mainly because of poaching within the park.  With no other vehicles driving around it would be very easy for park wardens to spot any flashlights, headlights, etc. out in the park and catch any poachers (which unfortunately continue to be quiet a problem within the park). An added benefit is that is gives the animals a night of piece and quiet away from all the tourists. It seemed unlikely that the leopard would come back during the day and so we returned to the pride of lions, which included adult and sub-adult males and females were resting under some large trees adjacent to a river bed.  Periodically one would get up, walk a few steps and flop back down into the grass. Buffalo and waterbuck knew they were there but they also wanted to get a drink. A few brave ones kept their eyes on the lions while they quickly grabbed a drink from the opposite side of the bank. Two male giraffe were off in the distance ‘necking’ which is where the males stand side by side and swing their heads out and down until they collide against each other as a way of determining strength and dominance. The lions showed a bit of interest but even though they didn’t look like they had recently fed, they did not make any attempts to go in for a kill. After watching them for some time, it was clear they were not going to go hunting anytime soon so we decided to drive back to check if the leopard had come back to claim it’s prize.  While there had been a few cars parked along the road patiently waiting for the leopard to return the first time we passed by, this time there was a traffic jam!  Sure enough, a big male leopard was laying overtop of his prize gazing down at all us and periodically licking the hide like a content house cat after catching a mouse.  He took a few bites but seemed restless and within a few minutes he got up and jumped down out of the tree.  To my surprise a hyena was lopping under the tree gazing up at the fresh meat when the leopard came down but neither of them paid any attention to the other. The leopard walk 20 meters away and laid down in the open savannah and the hyena continued to make circles under the tree. I had lost track of time but when I looked up all the cars were gone and it was 6pm.  At that point we were already going to be late to the campsite.  While I couldn’t remember exactly what the punishment for being late was, the fine was surely not going to be more than $20 dollars so what was a few more minutes?   We watch the leopard as he cleaned off his face and paws and the hyena eventually gave up and wondered off.  As the last bit of sunlight vanished from the sky we figured it was time to get back to the campsite and so with great hesitation I turned the car around, took one last glace at the leopard and raced back to the campsite. We were 14 minutes late. The gates were locked and a stern looking guard with a rifle was standing next to the gate. He took down our licence plate in case there were future transgressions and after a stern warning he let us in!

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