Despite the summer heat and the water temperature of the Sand River resembling that of a tropical sea, leopards still don’t like getting their feet wet.
A superb series of photos from Ranger Kevin Power illustrates exactly that. Kevin takes us through what happened:
“We were looking for the Nyelethi Male leopard. My guest Ted Swindon had seen him as a cub when he was born in the same litter as the Nanga female, but it had been years since Ted’s last viewing of him. We heard he had been seen in the western end of Londolozi’s traversing area, so headed along the Sand River the next morning to try and find him.
Born to the Nyelethi female in 2009, this male was one of three cubs that all survived to independence.1 sighting by Members
We soon heard that he had been found again, still mating, but unfortunately the pair was on the northern bank of the river, in an area to which Londolozi’s traversing agreement doesn’t extend. The leopards were apparently close to the bank, so we decided to head there anyway on the off chance that they would come back across.
We could see vehicles on the northern riverbank marking the spot where the leopards were, but we struggled to see them. After about 45 minutes the other Land Rovers left, but we decided to stick it out, knowing that the bulk 0f the Nyelethi male’s territory was south of the river so he would have to come back eventually.
After about an hour and a half, we caught sight of the leopards moving, but we struggled to maintain a good view as they walked parallel to the riverbank.
We had been there for well over two hours by the time the Nyelethi male started looking towards the southern bank where we were. The river was fairly full, so he had to be quite selective about where he was going to cross. We managed to position opposite what looked like a relatively shallow stretch, with an open sandbank next to it which would allow for an unobstructed view should he emerge onto the beach.
A prominent gap in the reeds must have looked particularly inviting for the leopard, and we waited, set up perfectly (we hoped) for the money shot should it come to pass.
Slowly but surely the leopard came ever closer, until he was exactly where we anticipated him going. He kept looking south, so we knew he wanted to cross. Muscles tensed, he crouched down and then soared in an almighty leap most of the way over the channel. Coming down in a big splash, he took another frantic bound before making it onto dry ground on the bank.
We were ecstatic! Neither Ted nor myself had ever seen a leopard leaping over water like that.
Knowing that a female leopard of a mating pair will usually follow the male along the same route he took, we opted to wait, and sure enough, about 10 or 15 minutes later, the female emerged on the exact same sandbank, leaping from almost the exact same point and splashing into the river in the exact same way.
Before drive that morning we had never seen a leopard leap across a waterbody. Now we had seen two!