There are certain iconic pictures that every guide at Londolozi would like to have the opportunity to take at some stage during their time here. Lions crossing the Sand River, mating leopards, a Fish Eagle swooping down on prey at the water’s surface – the list is long! If you spend a few years working here as a guide, odds are you will tick more off that list than not.

One that always eluded me – and probably the one I wanted the most – was the shot of a female leopard carrying one of its cubs; I mean is that really too much to ask?! After three years of guiding full time I hadn’t even come close. Whilst over the following five and a half years I have been able to make regular forays into the bush from the finance office, I had largely given up on ever getting this opportunity.

That was until last week.

Currently we are fortunate to have a number of different female leopards with cubs of varying ages. The problem with the shot I have been looking for is that once a leopard cub is older than around 2 – 3 months, it becomes unlikely that their mother will carry them as they are just too big and can walk on their own. This leaves a pretty small window of opportunity. Coupled with the the fact that they don’t move them that often during this period, the dens are usually in well hidden or inaccessible places and they are largely nocturnal so moving them at night isn’t an issue, you can see how this opportunity has eluded me.

Towards the end of April, ranger Talley Smith and tracker Freddy Ngobeni were driving guests Alex and Charlotte Schodl and managed to find what appeared to be the den site of the Tamboti female. They had seen her going into a hole in a river bank and could hear the sounds of cubs but never had a view. A few weeks later there was no further sign around that area, leading us to believe she may have moved the den.

Then last Wednesday I was out on a drive with Chris Kane-Berman and Jacqui Marais and we decided to head into the area the Tamboti female had last been seen, on the off chance that we might find her. As we crossed through the Maxabene, a dry riverbed that runs through central Londolozi, we spotted her downstream of us. We drove as far as we could towards her, our path eventually blocked by a fallen log, and watched. Her behaviour seemed odd – she was initially scraping at the sand with her paws, appearing to bury some of her own scat. She then just milled around, occasionally glancing to the far bank at a clump of roots that snaked out from a Leadwood tree. Although I’ve learnt not to get too excited in these situations, her behaviour combined with the suitability of the area for a den got us all hoping that this may be the spot.

Then without warning, she disappeared into the clump of roots, with just her tail protruding, and emerged with a cub in her mouth! There was a second of silence, then a few panicked expletives as we all lunged for our cameras. In what could not have been a better setting, she walked straight towards us and past the Land Rover, finally providing me with the opportunity I’ve been dreaming of for eight long years!

Tamboti female

As we found the female in the late afternoon, she was milling about in the riverbed, occasionally looking towards a clump of tree roots on the western bank.

She emerged from the clump of roots with a cub held gently in her teeth.

Despite other routes available to her, we were lucky enough that she chose to walk directly towards us.

Completely unfazed by our presence, she walked within a few meters of us.

The last shot of her walking away from us, taking the cub to its next den.

Filed under Leopards Wildlife

Involved Leopards

3:4 Female

3:4 Female

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Tamboti 4:3 Female

Tamboti 4:3 Female

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About the Author

David Dampier

Financial Manager

David left the bright lights of Johannesburg and a promising career as a chartered accountant to join the Londolozi Ranging team in 2009. After three years spent as a guide, during which he built up a formidable reputation as one of Londolozi's top ...

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on A Long Wait

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Gillian Evans

Wow!!!! How special! Amazing luck in being there at the right time and amazing photos!!


how beautiful!!

Mary Beth Wheeler

What a thrill!! And I’m so pleased to know that Tamboti’s had her cubs and that they’re all safe. Thanks for the super images!


Congratulations! Lovely photos – precious little cub!

Steve Hall

Magnificent Pic David ! Some things in life are really worth the wait !! Well done !


magnificent pictures! i love getting your emails and reading the stories everyday!


So excited for you all!!! Well done!!!

Les Moodie


Wendy Hawkins

Oh David that is the most awesome sequence of photos of this beautiful Leopardess! So glad that you got this opportunity & thank you for sharing it with us! Just beautiful 🙂

David Finkle

Only one word to describe this photo/experience: SPECTACULAR !

Suzanne Gibson

Wonderful pictures, David, what a fantastic sighting. I bet all the rangers and trackers are very jealous (especially Bennett!) . Can’t wait to come back in October.

Cynthia House

Fabulous photos and aren’t you the lucky one !

Charmaine Jameson

That is absolutely amazing, you lucky fish. I am yet to see a Leopard in the wild. Maybe for my 60th Birthday? If i start saving now😄

Alison Smith

What a priviledge to have seen this and captured in so wonderfully through the lens! beautiful and thank you for sharing!!

Sue Prince

Great pics Doyle, Stoff and Jax, one day…

Jo Lynne Jones

Congratulations ! Fred and I are happy for you! Tamboti is a favorite .

Deborah Llewelyn

Dave this is amazing! So special ❤️

Callum Evans

That has to be one of the greatest encounters that it is possible to have in Africa!! Such incredible photos of beautiful cats, I’ve seen very few photos of leopards carrying their cubs and these have to be some of the best! I’d do anything for a chance to see and photograph that moment!!!

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