Ever since I was a young boy I can remember having an absolute fascination with leopards. The first time I can remember seeing a leopard was when I was about six years old, in the Timbavati nature reserve. I was on a game drive with my family one afternoon, obviously as a six year old my attention span was equivalent to that of a labrador at the beach, so my head was racing from side to side trying to take in all my surrounds. Then it happened; as my young head was facing the road up ahead, a female leopard emerged onto the gravel track. My dad immediately cut the engine, as he knew the leopards in the area were rather nervous of the vehicles. As we slowly rolled to a stand still, she stood and watched us, standing ever so regally. We were relatively far away, but close enough for me to see her golden coat catching the last rays of the afternoon sun. I was in awe! No sooner had she appeared than she had vanished into the bush onto the other side of the road. The sighting may have been an extremely quick one, but the memory will last a lifetime. Ever since that day I have been incredibly intrigued by these animals.
Their secretive and solitary nature absolutely captivates me. The way they are so seemingly assured in all their actions and so comfortable in their environment is something admirable. They are masters of stealth and disguise, being able to appear and disappear within seconds, just like that fleeting glimpse I had when I was six.
Every time I see a leopard I feel privileged, as I understand how good these animals are at hiding themselves and staying undetected. I always say to my guests, “If we see a leopard, it’s because the leopard is allowing us to see it.”
Working at Londolozi has been a dream of mine, as growing up I was always aware of the “Leopards of Londolozi.” The fact that there were so many leopards in one area that were habituated with vehicles was something quite difficult for me to fathom after my brisk encounter when I was still so young. To be able to spend time with these animals at close range and be allowed into their daily lives was something I really wanted to be apart of.
Having been at Londolozi for just under two years now, I’ve certainly had my fair share of leopard sightings, and what a treat each and every one has been. I’ve kept a record of all the different leopards I’ve had the privilege of laying my eyes on up until this date on Londolozi’s property. Today my list stands at 29 different individuals. These are all leopards that are at least one1 year or older. From the legends like the Camp Pan and Marthly males to the current territory holders in the form of the Piva and Inyathini males and of course, the future of the area in the form of the Mashaba Young Female, I’ve tried my hardest to capture each moment and photograph each individual, but unfortunately haven’t succeeded with all of them, nonetheless I’ve captured a few…
Here are a few shots of mine of some of the different Individuals I’ve seen.
Possibly the most viewed leopard at Londolozi these days, the Mashaba female investigates a herd of impala from the vantage of a Maralu tree.
One of the larger males of the area. The Makhotini male certainly imposes a huge presence on the territory he patrols
The Maliliwane Young Female. I first saw her about a year ago, she then disappeared off our radar for a few months only to appear about three weeks ago looking as healthy as ever.
The Inyathini male is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the central south of our property. Very difficult to find on foot, but always a treat to spend time with once found.
A young female I have only seen twice, the Ntoma female. Her territory only overlaps slightly with Londolozi’s property, so sightings are very far and few between.
The stunning Tatowa female. She’s moved quite far south of her mothers territory (Ximpalapala Female), but seems to be setting up a solid territory of her own.
The Gowrie male. Unfortunately assumed deceased, but still one of the more dominant leopards the north of our property has seen in recent years.
The last time I got to see the iconic Dudley River Bank female. She was chased up this leadwood tree by the Tsalala pride, just before she came down she paused briefly in the afternoon light for us.
A young female who is very new to the northern parts of our property; the Ingrid Dam young female. Although this was one of the first times she was viewed on our property, she was very relaxed around the vehicle, making for an awesome sighting.
Possibly the biggest leopard I have ever seen, the Anderson male. The first time I saw this leopard, he had managed to hoist a giraffe calf up a tree – an epic feat of strength.
Two of the older females in the south east of our property, the Tamboti female (back) and the Xidulu female. Here they were exchanging growls, deciding who would be the one to mate with the Piva male.
The Tutlwa female. Not opposed to climbing the occasional Marula tree, she always makes for an awesome sighting.
Its difficult to choose a favourite leopard, but the Piva male has to be mine. Having watched this male grow up from the young age of two, it’s been a privilege to spend time with him and see him succeed. A close up shot reveals the scars he has had to have inflicted to become one of Londolozi’s most dominant males.
The 4:4 male came from an area unknown to us. When one looks at the battle scars on this males face, we can see he has surely endured a few fights to get to the prime territory he now reigns over.
The Nhlanguleni female rests in a Marula tree overlooking her territory. With two young cubs at the moment, she is constantly on the hunt for food to feed all three stomachs.
The Tamboti Young Female has yet to establish a set territory of her own. When she does appear (not as often these days), she is instantly recognisable by the 5 spots on her right cheek.
One of the rare opportunities I’ve had to photograph this leopard, theNdzanzeni female. She’s adopted her mother’s territory (Dudley River Bank) territory, and seems to be doing well established despite her small size.
The Mashaba young female, always an amazing young leopard to spend time with, as her youthful playfulness is still very much a part of her character.
We don’t know too much about them ourselves, but will be sure to post about them if we receive some more information.