The Return of a Legend

Posted on March 13, 2011

Yesterday morning we were awoken to the sounds of monkeys chattering and issuing alarm calls around the Lodge, little did we know….…”The legend was returning”

Gary left on the morning drive and almost immediately bumped into the Hlaba Nkunzi Female Leopard heading straight back to towards the Lodge.

For those of you who are avid readers of the Leopard Hills Blog, you will know the Hlaba Nkunzi moved away from this area with her remaining cub when the Nomadic Male Leopard moved through and killed her other youngster, she moved east and we have not seen her in and about the Lodge since.

AT 06h30 Gary radioed me to say she was lying on the outdoor shower wall of Suite 5. Amazingly Gary had managed to get pictures of her lying on exactly the same shower wall three years ago when she had just become independent of her mother, the legendary Makwela.

Hlaba Nkunzi had left her youngster at the causeway across the Mabrak River, not far from the Lodge, and was on the hunt into familiar territory. She climbed down from her vantage point and walk straight up the path from the Suites toward the Reception area. I stood in the open Reception watching her approach, such a familiar sight to see her in and around the Lodge again, memories of her and her mother came to me, such times as we found her in the gym on the treadmill one morning before drive, or the time she was lying on the roof of Suite 8 with her two cubs at sunset while we were on the main deck having sun downers, special memories that I will never forget.

She walked towards me again, fully aware I was there and stopped 5 metres away staring at me, how many time have we done this over the years. She lifted her head and smelled the air and then lowered her head as she started calling, the rasping sawing sound that reverberated around the rocky outcrop where the main building of the Lodge is situated. Chills ran down my spine and “goose bumps” rose on my forearms, she was back and she was letting everyone know she was “home”.

We watched each other for a while until she lost interest and moved past me up the walkway to the lower pool deck, up onto the main dining area deck and past Suite 8 into the rocks beyond, calling as she went.

We thought it would be fun to post those pictures of Hlaba Nkunzi taken three years ago and then the ones of her taken yesterday morning. What has changed, she is just as beautiful as ever, she is just three years wiser and is looking more and more like her mother as time goes on…………………welcome home to a legend.

Pictures taken three years ago at Suite 5

Pictures taken yesterday morning at Suite 5

Thanks Gary for the pictures.

22 thoughts on “The Return of a Legend

  1. Duncam, That is such wonderful and welcome news, lets hope she will impart the same feeling of "home territory" into the remaining cub, and perpetuate the Leopard Hills dynasty.

  2. Awwww Duncan, what a wonderful blog to read in my morning. I got goose bumps and even a happy tear in my eyes reading this. I am so happy for all of you that she has returned.I followed the write ups when Hlaba Nkunzi was growing up and "borrowing" the many, many things that she did and would sit on top of the rooms, etc. to show off all her "new toys".
    Great to see the comparison images and thank you for sharing your heart with us.Looking forward in more to come.

    Amazing things continue at Leopard Hills. 🙂

  3. Awwww how good to hear that she’s back, and I hope that the male doesn’t come back that way. It’s horrible when they are away isn’t it, WE (Wildearth viewers) are all avidly waiting for Karula to come back home into the Djuma area properly with her new cubs, she’s been away far too long !

  4. Awesome article dad.Said with such meaning and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up just reading that she has returned home. Such a gorgeous leopard.

  5. Duncan, after a mere few days at your lodge, HK, as I call her, has become an incredibly special animal to me. This must have been a fantastic homecoming on many levels. Very well scripted and I could feel those goosebumps!

    I can only hope she sticks around now, or at the very least until the end of April !! See you all soon.

  6. Dunx – tell her to stick around until May when I bring my boys, please. I remember her as a six month old with her two sisters. They were stashed on our porch as Makwela hunted.

  7. hi lou ,dunx .megan and kiara
    what a story , as u guys know i cry alot !!!! but this amazing story did make me tearful !!!! fab photos and dunx where is that book ??? miss leopard hills soooo much . thankyou with the blog keeping it all so real xx

  8. My heart is melting, my make-up is gone?what a privilege it is to meet a Queen on foot! I am so envy I wish it was me:) Thank you very much Duncan for this beautiful and touching story ? Gary ? great shots ? I close my eyes and I hear her calling?

    Leopard Hills Rocks!!!

  9. Hi Duncan,

    What a wonderful moment & privelage for you…thank goodness she is safe & back on familar ground!!

    Thank you for looking after Shelley & Jenny so well. She got home last night & said that is never going to be the same!!

    Keep well,

  10. WOW…can’t wait to be there in Sept. and hopefully see Hlaba Nkuzui and her cub. Such great pictures from Gary, (who I can’t wait to see too) who captured everything about the leopards…as he always does.

  11. Hi Duncan,

    What a great account of the story. I was one of the lucky guests who were in the game drive vehicle with Gary when this all happened! I have some amazing shots too of Hlaba Nkunzi as she groomed herself on top of Laurie’s shower. The sound of her calling is imprinted in my memory forever – it went right through my bones when I heard it! Being at Leopard Hills and experiencing that moment has most certainly changed me forever! Thank you so much for making it one of the most memorable weekends of our lives!
    Lots of love
    Shelley and Jenny

  12. Duncan, you could have been a famous writer!! You never cease to amaze me with your fantastic writing skills – reading it gave me goose bumps. Your eye contact with her must have been a sacred moment. I am so privileged to have known her mother as well as we did! The good news is I have booked Suite no. 5 when we return in the next 8 weeks!!! Hopefully she pays me a special visit on my 40th birthday!!! CAN’T WAIT. Her home will always be the Lodge a safe and familiar haven of love! Wonderful pics Gary – see you soon!

  13. What is it about these leopard "Queens"? WE watchers have our Queen Karula and you all have your Queen. These leopard ladies are magical, stealing our hearts and making grown human folks cry. How DO they do it? I’m so glad she’s home and back where she belongs

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