The Leopard is a big cat with excellent camouflage and stealthy habits. I am sure in all our years of visiting South Africa’s wild places we’ve passed many more Leopards without seeing them than we actually did notice, but I try not to dwell on that too much… With the Kruger Park being so lush and green when we visited in December 2021 it was a wonder we saw any Leopards at all.
Even when you are lucky enough to glimpse a Leopard, often all you get to see of it is a few spots and a white tail-tip as it slinks out of view, like this one along the road between Orpen and Satara on the 23rd of December.
Most of our Leopard sightings have been in the very early morning, so it pays to get up early and be one of the first vehicles out the camp gates. We saw this big male on the S100-road with the sun still struggling to rise on an overcast morning.
Leopards are great at climbing and that’s a good reason to scan trees big and small while out on a game drive in reserves where they occur. This beautiful lady was draped over a Marula branch hanging almost over the S36-road and so relaxed in our presence that she actually fell asleep while we watched. She probably lies in this tree very often to be so relaxed in the company of people and their vehicles. We only noticed later while going through our photos that she is blind in her right eye.
When you are blessed with a fantastic Leopard sighting it’s a memory that will stay with you forever. In the morning of the 29th of December we were travelling along the S39 road, that follows the course of the Timbavati River, towards Timbavati Picnic Spot and finding sightings rather sparse, though the bushveld scenery was as beautiful as anything you could imagine. Suddenly, within sight of the Leeubron waterhole, this magnificent creature appeared right next to the road. A big and beautiful Leopard male, so relaxed in our presence that you could imagine that it didn’t even acknowledge our existence. He came closer and closer, crossed the road behind our vehicle, and walked off into the distance, leaving us all very excitedly chattering about our luck at being in the right place at the right time!