I must admit, getting out of bed here in winter can be a real challenge. However, stepping outside into the icy air is always worth it when the sound of lions calling is coming from close by. It makes the freezing temperatures that we endure in the open vehicle manageable. I have gotten into the habit of leaving camp with my guests every morning and then parking and watching the sunrise. I feel this should be made a rule out here. It is the best time of the day for two reasons: i) you get to witness a beautiful sunrise with the knowledge that it will only get warmer from then onwards; and ii) the bush is alive with the calls of birds, and often lions and leopards too.

Several times over the past month we have been able to find leopards or lions from following their calls, heard during our sunrise stop. Recently, a leopard was found close to camp right at the start of game drive. We were able to enjoy our routine sunrise stop with the leopard in a tree right next to us. The photos below show how our morning unfolded from there…

Nkoveni female leopard in marula tree at sunrise PT 2018

The Nkoveni female stares out over the landscape in the direction of another leopard’s calls at sunrise. She had an impala kill in the crown of the tree above from the night before.

Nkoveni 2:2 Female
2012 - present

A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.

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Nkoveni 2:2 Female

59 stories
2 known
1 known
Nkoveni female leopard, impala kill, descent

Having heard another leopard calling, and having had the kill hoisted in an awkward position, the female descended the tree to move the kill to a safer position elsewhere.

Nkoveni female leopard, jumping, impala kill

The show of strength an agility was incredible. She jumped effortlessly out of the tree, never dropping the carcass from between her teeth.

Nkoveni female leopard dragging impala carcass

In an effort to move the kill to a different area, she had to drag the carcass past our vehicles, through an open clearing. She then proceeded to run with the carcass clamped in her jaws!

We looped around ahead of the leopard and witnessed her jump to about three metres into a knobthorn tree with the kill in an effort to escape a hyena that was running in to try and steal it. Luckily she managed to get away with her prize intact. While resting in the tree, the kill almost dropped to the ground, but she luckily caught it in time – another amazing show of strength. It turns out that later that morning, the Mashaba female leopard was in the area and happened to steal the carcass away from the Nkoveni female while she was away in a thicket resting nearby!

giraffe, airstrip, guests, alex jordan, lucky shibangu, PT 2018

A giraffe walks across alongside the airstrip while ranger Alex Jordan, tracker Lucky Shabangu and their guests look on.

Having witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime leopard sighting, we decided to carry on with our morning and headed across the airstrip to carry on with our drive. A journey of at least 12 giraffe of different ages were spread out across the clearing, walking gracefully from tree to tree in the early morning sunlight. It was a beautiful scene, typical of what one would expect in Out of Africa. We were not even five minutes away from where we had been watching the leopard! The giraffe all ambled slowly into the thicket after quite some time, leaving us feeling rather content with life that morning. Time for a morning cup of coffee to warm up and contemplate what we had all witnessed already…

vervet monkeys, morning sun, PT 2018

A troop of vervet monkeys sits amongst the long grass while out foraging. I always find it amusing watching monkeys as their mannerisms are so close to our own!

Just before stopping for our coffee break, we spent a few minutes marvelling at the antics of a group of vervet monkeys playing in the morning light. We seem to have a love-hate relationship with monkeys out here as they are constantly trying to steal our breakfast at camp, however watching them in their natural habitat can entertain one for hours…

Having had non-stop action from the moment we left camp on this particular morning, it would be a crime not to sit back and smile, knowing how incredibly fortunate we are to bear witness to the natural beauty that is Londolozi.

Involved Leopards

Nkoveni 2:2 Female

Nkoveni 2:2 Female

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About the Author

Pete Thorpe

Field Guide

Right from his very first bush trip at the age of four, Pete was always enthralled by this environment. Having grown up in the Middle East, Pete’s home-away-from-home has always been a bungalow in the Greater Kruger National Park, where his family had ...

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on A Magical Morning at Londolozi

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Marinda Drake

Every morning in the bush is magical and even more so if you can spend it on game drive at Londolozi. We are so fortunate to live in Africa and close to nature.

Mary Beth Wheeler

My parka is packed as I get ready for my visit in a couple of weeks! Your blog took me there early, Pete!

Joanne Wadsworth

What a action packed morning you and your guests had! I must admit that the series of the Nkoveni carrying her kill down the tree was superb. Such agility, strength and grace!

Ginger Brucker

What a reward for braving the cold! Morning drives infuse the soul.

Stan Watson

A truly beautiful cat captured by excellent photography and written supplements. Thank you!

Betty-Lou Luijken

A magical morning indeed: I just love the light on the images of the leopard!

Darlene Knott

Nice pics, Pete! You are so right—early morning in Africa is the best! Beautiful leopard shots!

Callum Evans

That is a truly unbelievable, wish I could have one like it someday! That is why you always get up early in the bush!

Denise Vouri

Every day in the bush is a present in the guise of flora and fauna moment, and I’m so looking forward to a day like this during my visit next year.

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