I was just six years old when I experienced something that would change my life forever. The day had began to cool in the late winter afternoon in the Kruger National Park, and we were making our way back to camp before the gate closed, when we rounded a corner and saw a line of cars with people staring through binoculars into the distance.
Naturally the excitement level in the vehicle rose and we knew that there must be something special to cause the mini traffic jam that we had just stumbled onto. After a few minutes of staring into the bush and trying to figure out what all the people were looking at we pulled up next to a family in their hatchback and asked what all the fuss was about. “LEOPARD!!”, said a man with wild excitement in his voice. Butterflies raced through my chest, this was my third trip to this magnificent park and I had never cast my eyes upon one of these elusive cats. After around 15 minutes of scanning every tree possible with my binoculars my grand father said it was time to go as we had to get back to camp. I had seen nothing and was heart broken. My grandmother convinced him to do a loop and come back to the spot where all the cars had been so we could have another look before we headed back. We rounded the same corner we had been just moments before and there were now no vehicles. We stopped next to a fallen down tree and had binoculars glued to our eyes.We were all in silence, desperate to lay eyes on the cause of the earlier traffic jam, and saw nothing. “Nick, I’m sorry but we have to get back to camp!”, my grandfather’s words had barely left his mouth when a female leopard, seemingly out of thin air, simply hopped onto a dead branch just metres from our vehicle. There she sat, the most beautiful thing my young eyes had ever seen, staring at me for what felt like an eternity. The feeling that flooded my body I cannot put into words, her eyes penetrated into my soul and I fell deeply in love. This feeling stayed with me all the way back to camp and I could not quite comprehend what had just happened. It was love at first sight and since that day I have had a deep fascination and an obsession with these incredible creatures. They have influenced my life more than I could have ever imagined possible.  What it is about them I can not quite describe but to this day they continue to leave me in absolute awe. A leopard has a presence about it and silently commands respect without ever asking it. They walk with a grace and beauty that cannot (in my mind) be compared to any other being on this planet.

A year ago I arrived at Londolozi with great excitement. I had watched documentaries about leopards made here by John Varty as a little boy and I was now about to start working here, in what felt Neverland must have felt like to Peter Pan. The past year has been an incredible journey and I have met amazing people from all walks of life. I have witnessed some remarkable sightings, from my first mating leopards to cubs playing with their mothers, to leopards lying lazily in trees or walking silently past our vehicles. I love the trust that has been built up between animal and man here. A leopard needs only to look you in the eye and you feel like nothing else exists. Everything else fades away instantly and for a moment, all seems right with the world.  The Leopards of Londolozi have enriched my life and have given me experiences that will stay with me to my last days. It has been a privilege to spend time in their presence.

Londolozi is a very special place, the people here are warm and friendly and are always willing to lend a helping hand. I have learned a lot in this past year about photography, nature, people and feel like being around all of this positive energy teaches you how life should be lived all around the world. I have also learned a lot from the leopard.

The feeling I had on that late winter afternoon has never left me and I now have the privilege to show people from all over the world leopards on an almost daily basis; I feel a great excitement showing someone their first leopard. How lucky am I? I have been at Londolozi for a year now and have witnessed some amazing sightings and have met wonderful people to. How do you sum up a year at Londolozi in a blog? It is just not possible. So therefore I have chosen to share with you a few of my favourite images of the greatest animals on the planet and hope that the images make up for the lack of words that I have.

Enjoy the pictures…

 

 

 

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The Ravenscourt male getting active in the late afternoon. ISO 1000, F5, 1/2500.

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The Tamboti female’s hypnotising stare. ISO 800, F6.3, 1/500.

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Nanga’s blue-eyed cub brought joy into the people who were lucky enough to see him in his short life. It was a privilege to spend time with this beautiful little animal.

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The Hlavankunzi female warning a hyena that he cannot come any closer to her and her cub. ISO 400, F5, 1/600.

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The “golden hour” with the Tamboti female. ISO 400, F5.6, 1/125.

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The Tamboti young female from a couple of days ago, peering over a branch at us. ISO 100, F4.5, 1/250.

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The Tamboti young female from a different angle in a Marula tree. ISO 400, F4.5, 1/250.

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The Anderson male from the north, coming down from a tree after feeding on a small giraffe that he had hoisted. ISO 400, F4, 1/5000.

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The Mashaba female having a tender moment with one of her cubs. ISO 500, F5, 1/250.

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The Mashaba female’s cub having a great time with its mother’s tail. ISO 500, F5, 1/250.

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The Mashaba young female having a snooze in the afternoon. ISO 800, F5, 1/250.

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The Nkoveni female (Mashaba young female) spots some impalas from the atop a termite mound. ISO 400, F4, 1/400.

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The Mashaba female walking with purpose down a game trail. ISO 400, F5, 1/400.

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The Tutlwa female on a termite mound vantage point provided a great photographic opportunity for us in the late afternoon light. ISO 640, F2.8, 1/2000.

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A close-up of the Tutlwa female. ISO 800, F6.3, 1/350.

About the Author

Nick Kleer

Field Guide

Nick joined the Londolozi team from Thornybush Game Reserve, and immediately began revealing his photographic potential, especially in the passion with which he pursued knowledge. An almost fanatical approach to improving his photography has seen him gain a rapid understanding of all the ...

View Nick's profile

14 Comments

on A Year with the Leopards of Londolozi

marinda drake
Guest

Stunning images Nick. I love leopatds much more than lions. It must be the most beautiful cat. Just had an amazing leopard experience in Kruger. Leaves you in awe of these incredible animals.

Jan-Erik Rottinghuis
Guest

These pics are simply outstanding: not only in capturing the moment….but also because of your post treatments to enhance the beauty of these leopards and the image. Thank you

Frances
Guest

From a gloomy UK, your email account today has just made me has sent shivers down my spine! My first encounter, although much later in life, was in Madikwe Game Reserve about five years ago and I can’t describe the tears in my eyes and the goose bump feeling that I had. Last year, over in Etosha, we managed to find ‘our’ own leopard hiding in the bush and, once again, I find it hard to describe my feelings. These animals are so very special and you are, indeed, privileged to encounter them on an almost daily basis at Londolozi. Always savour each and every one! Thanks so much for your “A Year with the Leopards of Londolozi” which i have so enjoyed on a winter’s afternoon in the northern hemisphere and one day I hope to visit.

Susan Chalmers
Guest

Thank you so much for sharing these amazing photos with us..they are the best.

Gillie Minett
Guest

I am in awe of your eloquent words and stunning images. In spite of several safaris in South Africa I am yet to see a leopard and I long to do so! I must come to the Sabi Sands!

Wendy Hawkins
Guest

Thank you Nick, I don’t think anyone could have written a better blog on these beloved cats, there is something so unbelievably powerful about them, but oh so graceful & serene! I love your B&W pics as they are so different & more white, but show the cat perfectly. I love the one of the Nanga’s cub with the blue eyes & the power of the Anderson male coming down the tree – wow 🙂 Have a great week & look forward to more Leopards from you 🙂

Sharon Blackburn
Guest

Beautiful photos and a wonderful story. All of us fortunate enough to have seen these magnificent animals understand your connection and fascination -the eyes of the big cats are mesmerizing! Love what you have done to create the unique scenes.

MJ
Guest

What beauty you have captured in your photos. Love the one of Mr. Anderson. Hopefully he will travel back north and let us see him again.

Mary Beth Wheeler
Guest

Great blog, Nick! Wonderful fur you that you’ve found your passion! We enjoyed our 12 days with you last April/May and I, too, will always treasure the time with Nanga’s little boy…

Tam
Guest

Nicholas, some beautiful memories all of which made me smile – we are so lucky!

SUSAN HIRST
Guest

From Oz ,Nick, thank you for fabulous blog.I love your photos & even aged 72 I can feel the passion in your words,such a gift. I hope one day to go out on safari with you.

Susan Strauss
Guest

You captured in both word and photos exactly how these amazing creatures mesmerize me.

Jill Grady
Guest

Beautiful words and stunning images Nick. I understand completely your love for these beautiful leopards and was speechless when I saw a leopard for the first time while at Londolozi in 2013. Thank you for including the lovely image of the little Nanga cub, who touched our hearts in a very special way.

Beth Eastman
Guest

What a privilege is was for us to spend part of the morning in the presence of the Tamboti young female in the tree. Thank you for sharing your passion and love for leopards and photography with Klaus and I.

Comments are closed.

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