It’s been said that, when it comes to memorable travel experiences, it’s about much more than the places you visit. It’s also about the people you meet on your journey. That’s true of our own, personally planned travel adventures. Having said this, however, people aside, the sights and sounds of Africa are hard to beat! Then, of course, there’s the animals you encounter. The interactions and connections you can forge with animals often also have a lasting, life-long impact. The Passing of the Female Leopard, Hlabankunzi We’re feeling sad this week as we reflect on the recent passing of one of our favourite examples of African wildlife — a stunning female leopard we’ve known as Hlabankunzi. It might seem like a mouthful of a name but it’s one that fits this proud, sleek and graceful creature we first met when she was just a small cub, frolicking in the long grass with her family. For wildlife in Africa, life can be harsh. Poaching, of course, is a problem so many people are working hard to erase. However, the other enemy of wild creatures is other wild creatures themselves — including, all too often, their own kind; and for leopards, this is particularly so. It seems to be the cause behind the unfortunate passing of this big cat, who leaves behind Scotia — a female with a cub of her own. The Cycle of Life No death is wasted, though, in this ancient continent. Two male lions could be seen feasting on Hlabankunzi’s remains, providing them with sustenance and serving as a powerful reminder of the way the circle of life continues to sustain others in a way that is natural and necessary. The average life-span of a leopard in the wild is 12-17 years old so we take comfort in the fact that, at 12 years of age, this beautiful leopard lived a full life. Towards the end, she was showing the visible signs of pressure forced on her by younger, stronger members of the local leopard community. When it comes to leopards, there is no safety in the numbers of a pride or pack, like many other animals. Leopards live and hunt alone, except for the company of their cubs. They will protect their territory with a fight to the death, if necessary. This means that making it to the ripe old age she did is definitely an impressive achievement and testament to her incredible strength of both body and spirit. We will miss her but her legacy will live on in the journey Scotia and young male, Misava, continue to take as they create their own independent lives. Alas this will now be without the watchful gaze of Hlabankunzi. If we’ve whet your appetite for an African adventure, even just a little bit, we invite you to find out more about planning a trip with your partner or your family and/or a group of friends. Contact us to talk about an itinerary suited to you, or to view some samples.