As guides, we are often asked by our guests what our favorite or most memorable sightings have been. For many of us, and particularly myself given that I have only recently joined the Londolozi family, it is a very difficult question to answer, and one that quite honestly, rarely has an answer. In my opinion, every sighting possesses its own unique qualities, and this in turn creates different feelings and evokes different emotions, both for us as guides, but also for all of our guests.

There are however certain sightings that come to mind when this question is asked. I recently guided a long-time repeat photographer, whose main focus was to photograph the Leopards of Londolozi.

Our first few days were characterised by some wonderful sightings of various individual leopards, and we enjoyed photographing them in different scenes and settings. It was the next few days that followed, however, which produced a sighting that my guests and I will never forget.

About a month prior, one of our rangers, Garrett Fitzpatrick and tracker Life Sibuyi, after following up on a set of female leopard tracks, managed to find the den site of the Nanga female, who had not been seen for quite some time. This sparked huge excitement amongst the ranger and tracker team. The nature of female leopards with cubs however, is to continually change den sites to ensure the safety of her cubs, and this meant that the search for the new den site continued.

Nanga 4:3 Female
2009 - present

The Nanga female was born to the Nyelethi 4:4 female in 2009 as part of a litter of three.

Nanga 4:3 Female

Saseka Female
16 stories
2 known
4 known

It wasn’t until three weeks later that the Nanga female was seen again, leading us to her new den site, amongst a set of well concealed boulders with tiny crevices in which she hid her cubs. My guests and I, wanting to view and photograph her and her cubs, set out early one afternoon and headed straight to this spot. Much to our disappointment, the female had once again moved den sites, and after a good few hours of working through the area, tracker Euce Madonsela and I realised we weren’t going to find them in the time available, and so we returned to the lodge.

We went back out the next morning with renewed energy, and were filled with hope when Euce spotted a fresh drag mark across the road, which led us straight to an impala kill. There was however no leopard nearby, and we thought to ourselves that it had to have been the Nanga female that made the kill; perhaps she had returned to her den site to fetch the cubs. We considered numerous different scenarios, but eventually resolved to return to the carcass in the afternoon to see if there had been any developments.

Feeling determined to find the female and her cubs, we set out early that afternoon, heading straight back to the kill. Our plan paid off, and we found the Nanga female laying down next to the impala carcass. We decided to wait with her, hoping that she would lead us back to her new den site.
Four hours of us patiently waiting had passed, and there was still no indication that she was going to return to her cubs. Just as the light was fading, she began to move. We followed her with great anticipation, only to watch her climb a tall Jackalberry tree and settle down for the evening. We once again returned to the lodge without having found the den site and her cubs.


The Nanga female reclines in the shade.

The glimmer of hope from the afternoon drive meant that we set out the following morning absolutely determined to find the den site and the Nanga female’s cubs. We once again returned to the area where she had stashed her kill. After tracking for about an hour from where she had moved it, we found her again, feeding on the remains of her now 2 day-old impala carcass. We accepted the fact that we would have to once again wait patiently to see if she would move in the direction of her den site. After an hour, she began to move, and this time with obvious intent. The energy on the vehicle could be most accurately described as a mixture of nervous tension and excitement. We continued to follow her as she scent marked, and weaved through a thicket on her way towards the Manyelethi river. She moved down into the river at a point where we were not able to access with the vehicle, so we were forced to drive around to the nearest crossing and head downstream hoping to bump into her again.
What we found was something I will never forget.
She approached a set of rocks, and began to call for her cubs. Minutes (or what felt like hours) later, two tiny little balls of fur emerged from the safety of their cave, and greeted their mother with excitement. They were clearly very aware that they were now outside of their hiding place and exposed to potential danger, as they kept looking around cautiously between bouts of suckling and playing with their mother’s tail.

We spent the next little while photographing, and filming their boisterous, and often clumsy playfulness, before they returned into the depths of their hiding place as the morning began to heat up.

I have had the privilege of having some absolutely incredible sightings in my time at Londolozi, and I am sure there are many more to come, but this was a moment in time that I will re-live forever!


A cautious emergence from the safety of the den.


From initial observations it appears that one of the cubs is male and one is female.


Despite the reassuring presence of their mother, it was still with a certain amount of trepidation that the cubs ventured out.


Bright blue eyes are the sign of extreme youthfulness in leopard cubs.


Grooming by their mother strengthens the bond between her and the cubs, aids to cool them, and provides an additional source of Vitamin D to their coats.


With the Anderson male taking control of the area, it is hoped he will provide a safety buffer against the potential encroachment of rival males.


A last look at the vehicle before scuttling back into the den.

Filed under Featured Leopards Wildlife

Involved Leopards

About the Author

Alistair Smith


Alistair left a corporate career to follow his true passion; the great outdoors. He began his guide training in late June of 2016, and thanks to a youth filled with numerous trips to the bushveld, sailed through the course without too much trouble. ...

More stories by Alistair


on Searching for the Nanga Female’s Cubs
    Jill Larone says:

    It’s so fantastic, Alistair, to see the beautiful Nanga female again! I first saw her in 2013 while at Londolozi and she, and the Tamboti female as well, quickly became my favourite Leopards. We all remember well the beautiful little blue-eyed cub that she had a little more than a year ago and mourned his loss when he didn’t survive. I have thought of her often over the past year and wondered where she’d gone, so thank you for the update. She looks to be in great shape and lovely to see new little cubs. I look forward to further updates on Nanga and hoping her cubs stay safe.

    Susan Krüger says:

    oh man, how lucky you guys are to get to see these darling cubs ♡♡ hope Nanga keeps them safe and both grow up. keep us posted, i’m watching this space 😀 thanx for sharing 🙂

    Laura Eberly says:

    Wow! Wonderful, thank you. This is so special, a gentle reminder that life really is a gift.

    Diane Phillips says:

    How beautiful. Thanks for posting.

    Ed Hubbard says:

    In our three trips to Londolozi I have photographed numerous Leopards, but never a tiny cub. Great, great photos to remind me I must return again and continue to try!

    Monique says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful sighting and pictures! When exactly was this?, and is the Anderson male the father?

    Lynn Rattray says:

    Oh WOW….thanks so much for posting this. We had a similar experience with Nanga’s first litter about 3 years ago. I love this leopard and am so excited to hear of her. Our experience is also one that lives on in my heart….such a loving mother and beautiful leopard. Her cubs were so amazing, coming right up to the vehicle at a very young age. You’ve made my day!

    Sue Christian Bell says:

    Beautiful photos, so very special, thank you for sharing.

    Alex says:

    Great blog,hopefully the Nanga female will be successful in raising this litter.At least the cubs should be safe from marauding male leopards with the Anderson male patrolling the area,you hardly ever hear of any male leopards in his territory.

    Guido, Dina says:

    i’m glad they are still alive , it was our first sighting at Londolozi with James ,Cath and Rich and the nicest one of our 12 day safari

    Ivan Glaser says:

    You are so lucky to be able to enjoy all these experiences on an almost daily basis.

    I was born in South Africa but have lived in Australia for the past 30 years…..

    Part of my family still live in South Africa and I travel back there almost every year with my now adult children

    We always head straight for the Kruger Park for at least a week…..and absolutely love it.

    I miss the Kruger Park so much when I return to Sydney…..but your daily blogs and wonderful pictures help me at least be a part of the daily life in the park even from so far away

    Thank you for sharing….


    TED SWINDON says:


    Susan Strauss says:

    Ohh, the patience and perseverance it took! I love all the pics, especially of mom and cub both looking left. Absolutely stunning!!

    Lanette Smit says:

    What a heart warming story! Hope to see them myself very soon.

    Kim Beasley says:

    I fell in love with the Nanga female at first sight (here, not in person unfortunately!). It seems I haven’t read anything on her in awhile. So great to see her looking as beautiful as ever….and new cubs!! Love all the photos, thank you!!

    Rich says:

    Great blog Alistair, having been luck enough to see the Nanga female and one of the two cubs over the weekend I can appreciate how incredible the sightings must have been. Great pics as well! Looking forward to more updates as these cubs grow up.

    Googo says:

    Keep up the good work Alistair

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