My Travel Blog

A Rare Sighting and The Dance of the Saddled Billed Stork

When we originally booked our African trip I thought if we were lucky we might have one exciting animal encounter per day. Was I ever wrong. At times we were on overload. It was one heart-pounding episode after another.  I suppose that’s why they say Africa is not for the weak at heart.

Our guide stopped the jeep by a lagoon, and pointed out a magnificent Saddled Billed Stork. Everyone took a few shots. Then we sat back, waited, and watched. Pretty soon the stork spread its wings, but instead of flying away it began to dance. It was fishing. The evening’s performance was this unbelievable, spectacular, graceful rendition of Nature’s Ballet. We were in awe as the huge bird hopped, jumped, twirled, and skipped across the water. We were honored to witness the beauty and grace of this spectacular bird, and yet some would say it was just another heart-pounding experience in Africa.

Our dancing Saddled Billed Stork.

That evening while we were having dinner a leopard came into camp, and killed a warthog. Understand that these safari camps are spread out, and thus we never heard the commotion. He or she then proceeded to leave the dead carcass lying against our neighbor’s front door.  Fortunately the manager heard the commotion, and went to check it out.  He had the good sense to remove the dead warthog so that our friends wouldn’t toss their dinner when they returned to their room.

The next morning we told our guide that if possible we would like to see a leopard.  Leopard sighting are fairly rare as these nocturnal animals are difficult to find during the day. We had been bouncing along in our jeep for some time without much luck.  Every so often our guide would stop, check the animal tracks along side the road, and then continue on.  We were not having much luck. All of a sudden we stopped.  Our guide turned off the engine.  After listening carefully for a few seconds he announced, “Do you hear that? That’s the warning sound of a Francolin bird.  It means there is a predator close by.”

Francolin Bird that warns the animals if there is a predator near.

We sped off in the direction of some tall trees. We came flying around a corner, and right in front of us was a leopard lying on the ground with two Francolins making a racket.  They were no more than five feet above the big cat. We grabbed our cameras and began to fire away taking dozens of photos. Pretty soon the cat got up, and went over to where the remains of an impala were lying on the ground and began to eat the kill.  When he was done he pawed at the ground a few times as if he were trying to bury what was left of the impala.  After finishing his meal he climbed up into a tree to take a little catnap..

The first of many leopards that we would see.

Eating what was left of an Impala.

Lilac Breasted Roller

When we returned to camp that evening this big guy was blocking the path back to camp.

We were extremely fortunate on our trip as we ended up seeing a number of leopards both male and female along with some leopard cubs. Every time I saw another leopard I was reminded that I needed to buy some new big cat underwear.

-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– 
Chuck Palmer Adventure novels


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.