My wife and I got up early to enter the park at 6:30am when the gates opened. We hoped that before the sun got too high we might find the leopard. We drove past Pilanesberg Center where a salt lick sometimes entices cheetah and leopards to make an appearance. No luck. We drove to another watering hole we had not before visited. No luck. We went on up to the northeastern road and headed past a couple more watering holes.
It was a beautiful morning and the sight of the balloons, especially with the elephant in the foreground was stunning. Passing the last watering hole we saw a lioness. That was a treat, but not what we were interested in today. We were quite close to the park exit and our chances grew slimmer by the moment. It was then that my wife said, "If we are going to see a leopard, god is going to have to drop it in our lap"!
I will spare you the other stories that begin with a phrase like that, but her particular choice of words gave me the feeling that we would see a leopard. I don't mean to imply that God listens to incantations or can be manipulated, but in our life, a sincerely uttered prayer like that is usually answered in the positive. As we neared the gate we could see giraffe on the outer side of the fence! In the compound with our chalet, too cool!
coming around the corner and now on paved maybe 500m from the front gate my wife grabbed my arm and said,"stop"! There in the road about 50m ahead was a leopard walking straight toward us! We couldn't believe our eyes. I started banging pictures and she pulled out her iPhone. The leopard continued to walk right at us as if it could care less that we were there. As it drew closer I rolled up my window and the cat walked right next to me! It was too close to take pictures of it because I don't have a macro lens! Yes, if the window was down I could have reached out to pet that kitty.
Our hearts were racing. We were overwhelmed by the beauty, grace, and strength of this beautiful predator. I pulled ahead and turned around to follow the cat. Only then did it veer off the road into the tall grass.
We headed out the front gate and told the people waiting to enter that we just saw a leopard right up the road, maybe 200m. They quickly entered the park in the hopes of catching a glimpse.
You may or may not be a person of faith, but for us we felt as though God was in the mood to flex his muscles and give us a treat; do a little showing-off as it were. I am happy to say that we get to experience that sort of thing a lot. I think it transcends coincidence. I really do think there is a God and he loves to give good gifts to his children. Does this event prove the existence of God? Of course not, but in the myriad equations and evidences I do think this is another point in his favor, trivial as it is.