Through social media I noticed that a woman was recently attacked by a beaut of a leopard in the Matopi campsite in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and there is a bit of a hype amongst campers at the moment. As usual there are a lot of accusations flying around on the how, why, do’s and don’ts. I want to stress that we have camped in the wilderness for the past 20 years and never ever had any incident/accident while camping in an unfenced campsite in Africa. We encountered hyenas skimming our tent in Moremi, a shy leopard watching us from the dark behind our tent in Central Kalahari, elephants stepping over our tent ropes in Mana Pools, hippos grazing on the green grass in front of our tent in Nkasa Rupara and monkeys trying to steal our food In Hwangwe, but nothing turned out as a bad situation.
If you follow some basic rules you will be safe.
The first and foremost rule of thumb is you are in their territory. RESPECT them. You are the visitor in their home.
Wild animals will very seldom just attack you at random. If they do that, they are either provoked, feel threatened, is sick or has completely lost its fear for humans. So, ZIP UP your tent. Always. This is not even negotiable. Sleep with an unzipped tent and you will encounter trouble. Leopards, lions and hyenas are hunters!
It is very tempting to put out bait to have a up close and personal experience. Remember if you do it you create CONSEQUENCES for future visitors to the same spot. This forms an association and expectation of food when it encounters humans and eventually they lose their fear for humans. Trouble.
STOW your food in secure containers in the back of your vehicle. Baboons and monkeys are known for their acute smell and will rip open tents with their capable paws to get to your stash. On various occasions we had to scare away baboons or monkeys from fellow campers’ food stash while they were out on a drive. Why would they hunt if the food storage is easily accessible for them? Lock up. Always.
Do not think if you visit the bush once a year for a week that you are a bush expert! Listen to what weathered, well-travelled and experienced people tell you to do. Guides are trained to know the bush. This was a rare and unfortunate incident that spoiled a dream vacation. Your chances of being hit by a car is bigger than being attacked by a wild animal in the veld. TRUST them.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding this incident, I wish the lady a speedy recovery as this must have been a horrific experience to her, her family and friends.
“Time camping is not spent; it is invested”