About the Author

James Tyrrell


James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills that complemented his Honours degree in Zoology meant that he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the ...

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on 5 Things You Need to Know About Leopards Before Coming on Safari

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I am fortunate to have seen many leopards so far in my life. From fleeting glimpses lasting a few seconds to having a leopard all to ourselves for 45 minutes and the only thing making us move on was breakfast calling. We saw a leopard kill a warthog. All this in Kruger where we see more leopards than lions. Nothing beat the experience that we have at Londolozi though. It is so special. From the cubs to the kill that we have seen. Leopards are the most beautiful of the big cats. They stay my favourite and thr most exiting.

Hi Marinda,
Have you and Des kept a record of how many you’ve seen by now? I’m sure it’s plenty!

Hi James. Don’t keep a record but even being “middle age” now we still remember exactly where we have seen a leopard and even what it did. It is probably because they are so special that we remember it better.

Leopards have been my favorite animal since my first Safari in 2009. We were st Little Mombo and watched the renowned Legadema (Eye of the Leopard fame) grace a tree with her presence, run with her cub from the baboons, etc. I fell in love and have not stopped. I admire and enjoy many animals in Africa and can sit and watch most for hours, but none get my heart thumping like the leopard—the strength, the beautiful fur, the long whiskers, those eyes! You watch one jump straight up into a tree as he or she carries a large kill, you watch one jump from one limb to another, wow! Nothing like it. And the cubs, oh my, I want to bring them home with me! ?

Hi Darlene,
I’m very jealous that you got to see the famous Legadma! What a treat. There certainly is nothing spending time with one in the wild!

Hi Darelene. You are so fortunate to have seen Legadema. It is definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

James you are so right! Viewing leopards is addictive! From my first sighting of a leopard on a kill in a tree in the Masai Mara I was totally and emotionality smitten! More recently at Londolozi viewing relaxed leopards in their environment – hunting, mating, observing, fighting, falling out of trees – and with cubs – the interaction has been phenomenal and never fails to get the adrenaline going! I’ve been accused of being obsessed by leopards .. but that’s no bad thing!

Superb post!! I can safetly say that ever since I was my first leopard when I was 14 in Kruger 2010 I was hooked!! I’ve only seen 3 leopards since then, a distant female on the iMfolozi Wilderness Trail, a close-encounter with a Cape leopard in Harold Porter Gardens in December last year and most recently a very relaxed male lying behind the showers in our campsite in Mabuasehube Game Reserve at night (29th December)! While an incredible set of experiences, I have yet to have a leopard sighting in the day where I spend time with it and photograph it. Still chasing the dream!

Jeepers, the encounter at Harold Porter must have been quite something! I long for the day when I get to see my first Cape Leopard!

It shocked me too!! A friend of mine who’s a bird guide had seen it about 30 minutes before me on the ridge above the gardens so I spent 20 minutes trying to spot it from a bridge with no luck. So I walked back through the forest half expecting to bump into it and then I heard a rustling on the path ahead of me and the leopard just jumped up 7 metres ahead of me and raced back up the cliff. I got a full view though, he was absolutely magnificent. I thought I’d have to wait years to see a Cape leopard!!

And I’m sorry, if you’ve lost track of the number of leopard sightings that you’ve had, then Londolozi must be absolute heaven-on-earth!!!!

Haha, it is! Hope I didn’t come across as sounding jaded there..

Master Tracker

It’s very simple, Londolozi is one of the great hotspots (no pun intended) for spotting leopards.

Hit the nail on the head and especially point Number 5.

James–you captured this brilliantly–totally expressing my sentiments and experiences.
We were so fortunate to experience a leopard sighting within the first hour of our first safari. I still remember exactly how I felt at that moment–a mesmerizing experience. I also felt so insignificant.

Hi Vin,
Thanks for the comments.
“Insignificance” is a good way to put it!

Beautifully written, thank you. I would add that for most of us the time spent in the African bush is truly a healing, rejuvenating experience that reminds us we are merely a small part of a much greater world.

Hi Laura,
I couldn’t agree more!

Ahh, leopards- the magical, mystical cats of Africa. I’ll never forget my first sighting, so enthralled that I barely took a photo. Just watching was enough. Last year on my trip to Sabi Sand and then Botswana, I was fortunate enough to have a few sightings, a couple spectacular ones and then the proverbial “hiding in the thicket”, barely a head peaking out as if to say, “no Photo op here!” Thanks for the article.

Hi Denise,
You’re welcome! Yip, if there’s no photo op, camera down, just enjoy!

This page should be splattered with positive comments about your article! Leopards are my very favorite and just seeing a image sends me into a place of total awe. What a story you have woven…what sensible advice. My thanks, James.

Hi Joanne, Thanks for the kind words!
They are truly special animals!

Leopards are the most wonderful creatures in the world for me. And I will never get enough of them. They are just beauty in perfection, as well as elegance and their cubs are the cutest little guys imaginable! Okay, lion cubs are as cute.

And, sorry, I have forgotten to mention it: the pictures and videos you post of leopards are just soooo amazing. I love them!

Thanks Christa!
(And yes, lion cubs are also pretty cute!!)

I love reading your thoughts and the way you make everything so amazingly well written and expressed! Thank you for sharing this about your fascinating leopards! One would think sometimes from the blogs that’s it is a usual outing of tracking and seeing these magnificent beautiful cats! This puts out the reality anyone who is fortunate to see one has been truly blessed!

Hi Carol,
Thanks for your kind words!
Indeed, sometimes we don’t find them, which just makes it that much more special when we do…!

James, I have a question – how difficult is it when you have become “close” to all these amazing animals to not want to help them when you know they are in trouble? Like the lion cubs, and leopard cubs when threatened by the males, the older or hurt animals where human intervention may be able to save them???? I would think that would be the hardest! I know you let nature take its course, but I would think it would be extremely difficult sometimes!!!

Hi Carol,

A good question.
I think the longer you are out here, the more invested in an animal’s survival you become, but at the same time you become more accepting of the fact that things are out of your control.
It’s certainly hard seeing an animal suffer, so I guess ultimately one just wishes the end would come quickly rather than wishing you could intervene yourself…

They are indeed addictive! I vividly remember my first sighting of a leopard in the wild – the Nyeleti female, up high in a marula tree, her three cubs below. It was 2010 and I’ll be back soon for the fifth time to see these stunning creatures again! Yup, I’m hooked!

Hi Mary Beth,
Sadly I never got to see the Nyelethi female – I arrived at Londolozi just around the time she disappeared. But happily I’ve spent many hours with the Nanga female, who as I’m sure you know is one of those three cubs!
What are the dates of your next visit!?

We arrive June 30 for 10 nights at Founders Camp. So looking forward to new adventures in the bush!

I really enjoyed this story James. People suggest that I am addicted to the leopards. I prefer to call it a love affair!

James, beautiful blog and so true! And, the photo of Amy and guests is with Freddy, as Jeff and I were sitting right behind! An exciting find as the Tamboti had cubs that we were desperately trying to find – and did as she eventually took us to them! Can’t wait to catch up on all the action in April!

Just fantastic!!!

James, This reminded us of the time with you and we sat next to those newborn leopard cubs hidden in a thicket and could really only listen to them! Wonder which ones those were?

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