I have been guiding at Londolozi for just under a year, and in the Sabi Sands for over four years in total. With this area being some of the best land in the world in which to view leopards, I have had the privilege of witnessing some incredible sightings over the course of my guiding career. I can confidently say however, that the last few weeks at Londolozi have provided some of, if not the best, sightings of leopards I have ever enjoyed.

Some of this has been down to pure luck, being in the right place at the right time, but the majority of these sightings have come as a result of the skill and hard work displayed by Londolozi’s guiding and tracking team.

It is always difficult to decide on one’s favourite sighting and I find it near impossible to make this decision as each one is different and has its own incredible element to it. Here are some of my favourites from the last few weeks:

After working with tracker Innocent Ngwenya, the Nkoveni female’s cubs were found late one afternoon. It seemed she had left them here and was off hunting. We quickly took one or two photographs and left the area for the safety of the cubs.

We believe the two cubs to be females, although this is yet to be confirmed.

In another sighting the Nkoveni female had managed to kill a large male impala and fed on it for a day before it was stolen by hyenas the following morning. We managed get some great photographs as a vulture flew over and one of the cubs ran up a termite mound and then climbed into a false marula.

The cubs were habituated from a very early age, although we are still limiting vehicle movement around them until they are a bit older.

It is usually just as the cubs start to properly develop their climbing skills that their mother will bring them to their first kill.

Often unable to climb the bigger trunks of the trees their mother will favour, the cubs will sometimes have their mother drop the kill to the ground for them. This false marula tree provided a perfect tree in which this cub could practice its newly acquired climbing abilities.

A sure sign that a leopard is about to leap into a tree will be it looking up to identify the easiest route up the trunk.

My next highlight was the Nanga female, who was found early one morning moving with her cub. This cub is now about 7 months old and is extremely playful and very relaxed around the vehicles, despite her earlier apprehensions about the presence of the Land Rovers. We watched as the two leopardsb climbed up and down trees. This is very important for the development of the cubs’ tree climbing skills, which will later enable her to hoist kills for protection from other predators, and escape danger if needs be.

Beautiful blue skies are to become more and more prevalent as we march into winter. The mud on the trunk of this tree which the Nanga female chose to climb is evident of its use as a rubbing post by elephants.

The cub of the Nanga female spies her mother in the tree and moves closer to investigate.

Incredibly agile animals, leopards have no problem leaping up distances of more than their body length.

The Nanga female, still being relatively young herself, often joins her cub in its tree-climbing excursions.

A large part of the cub’s education when in the company of its mother will be through observation.

The cub will be left alone for longer and longer periods of time going forward, and treetop refuges are going to be used more and more as it waits for it’s mother’s return.

We are incredibly fortunate to have a number of females with cubs on the reserve at the moment, with the Nanga female and her female cub being two of the most viewable.

This next sighting of the Ndzanzeni female was also truly special as she had managed to kill a large male impala near the beginning of the rutting season. Her and her cub fed on this kill for about two days, providing exceptional viewing before moving off.

The cub had a sibling which was disappeared in the first few months of its life.

These two leopards, although they don’t know it, are part of the royal family of Londolozi leopards, being directly descended from the original Mother Leopard that was first viewed in 1979.

Leopards are my favourite animal and to be able to view these animals the way we are able to is an absolute privilege I hope I never take for granted. With the impala rutting season nearing its peak we expect more spectacular viewing of  these cats as they take advantage of the easy hunting opportunities on offer in the from of the distracted impala rams.

Filed under Leopards Wildlife

12 Comments

on Leaps of Leopards
    Senior Moment says:

    Stunning photos, so jealous

    Lea says:

    Great blog Grant. You are, indeed, very fortunate to be able to see these magnificent cats in their natural habitat. I love leopards, and I take it that the two cubs you photographed saying they were a part of the Londolozi royal family, are the offspring of the leopard named Karula. Karula “The Queen” has not been seen for some time, so all are praying that she is safe and healthy in another area of Kruger. Thanks Grant.

    James Tyrrell says:

    Hi Lea,
    No, the Londolozi Royal lineage dates back to the very first leopard to be viewed on a regular basis here, way back in 1979, which was before many of the adjoining reserves were operating as commercial lodges. I don’t know the lineage of Karula but there is always the chance she is somehow descended from that original Mother leopard, since she is from a similar area, and female leopards tend not to disperse too far in this part of the world.
    Regards

    Gail Mingard says:

    Beautiful photographs to treasure – thank you!

    M says:

    Wonderful report, I look forward to read more of your glorious days in the bush. Great Shots!

    Mishal says:

    Nice blog .Who is the father of Nkoveni’s cubs ?

    James Tyrrell says:

    Hi Mishal,
    We presume the Piva male, but with female leopards often leaving their territories to mate with neighbouring males, it is very hard to say with 100% certainty.
    Regards

    Lynne says:

    They are truly beautiful animals ! Thank you for the amazing photo’s.

    Jenny says:

    Unbelievable shots Grant- particularly the leopard leaping. You must have a great eye and a great camera.

    Brian C says:

    Karula is the cousin of Nyeleti female and therefore distantly related to Nanga female. Nyeleti’s mother, the original Saseka, and Karula’s mother, Safari, were sisters (I think not littermates). After raising 10 cubs to independence, 13 year old Karula has disappeared from Djuma since middle of March. We’ve seen a couple of her sons wander onto Londolozi in the past (Kunyuma, Quarantine) so we are hoping she will turn up on a neighboring reserve…I don’t believe she is connected to Mother leopard unless Nyeleti was somehow (I referred to Nyeleti’s mom as original Saseka because one of Karulas’s daughters was also called Saseka–now Thandi— for a period of time. Leopard names and families can be more complicated than the War of the Roses)

    Brian C says:

    CORRECTION: Safari female and the original Saseka WERE littermates, so the connection between Karula and Nyeleti(and Nanga) seems a little closer

    Dawn Mann says:

    Grant, your photos are just spectacular!

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