It was at dusk when I saw the Mombo front of house and general assistant teams gawping at a leopard out in the floodplain in front of main camp, chatting and debating about the leopard and her identity. One thing that was agreed upon was that she was a female and was making her way to have a drink. The leopard looked relaxed and was walking swiftly across the floodplain. She walked at a distance that allowed us to spot her from the front deck as she headed for the treeline canopy in the direction of Tent 2. I went in and joined the team and viewed her through the spotting scope and realised from the stature, (slender and small body) that it was Legadima, the daughter of the Tortilis female and Burnt Ebony male.
I then started walking towards the western wing of the main area towards Tent 2 to see where she was heading so that I could inform the guides of the sighting. From a distance, I saw Legadima jumping onto the walkway where she lay flat on the deck right in front of the entrance. This was strange behaviour which left a lot to be desired. I expected to see her using the treeline as cover and then walk out of camp. While I was wondering, another staff member pointed up the mapororo tree (which is just by the entrance of the room) saying, “It looks like there is something in the tree”. When I looked, I saw the horns of a red lechwe and then rest of the body hanging from the branches.
We were fortunate that we had another room available for the guests who were staying in Tent 2. We informed them of the new resident and got them some toiletries from the curio shop for the night. We then had to sneak into the room the following morning in order to move the guests’ belongings to their new room.
Legadima spent three nights with us in camp and allowed us to take good photos of her and to walk past to tent number 1 without any problems, even though on the first night we had to drive the guests and assist them over the vehicle roof so they could make it safely onto the deck – she was just too close to Tent 2!
This was the first time at Mombo that I had experienced an animal and not a guest booking into a room. Similar incidents happened a few more times at Little Mombo’s Tent 2. I am still convinced to this day that the late Legadima was able to read numbers and I am positive that number 2 was her favourite.
Written by Tapera Sithole - photographed above
Photographs by Deon de Villiers