Whether it be as a guide, a well-seasoned safari goer, a first timer or an avid birder, we all have a list of things we really wish to see.
These first time sightings of any animal or bird are locally known as a “lifer”. At a very young age I was first exposed to a sort of “lifer-club”. Growing up on a farm in the miombo woodland regions of Zimbabwe, which is home to a few endemic birds such as the Spotted creeper, Green-backed honey bird, Cinnamon breasted tit, Miombo Rock thrush and Cabanis’s Bunting, my darling Grandmother (being a twitcher (avid birder)) would often have people travel from all over the world to our tiny little rural town, with the hopes of seeing a handful of these aforementioned ‘lifers’.
This is where it began for me.
Pretty close to camp there is a truly magnificent tree that we often drive past. It is a combination of two types of fig tree; a knobbly fig (Ficus sansibarica) with a Common Strangler fig (Ficus burkei) growing around it. I always find myself glancing into it as I bumble past, with a strong desire to one day see a leopard lounging around on the large horizontal branches, sheltered from the sunshine by the dense green canopy of leaves.
Late one morning we were fortunate to receive news that one of the rangers had found the Ximungwe young male sleeping in this very tree…
It was a no-brainer, we had to go, but when we arrived the leopard was sleeping in a pretty tricky place to get a good view. So we waited, hoping for him to move.
Ambient temperatures soaring into the high 30’s Celsius (95 plus Fahrenheit), but sheltered under the dense fig tree canopy it was bearable for us. With no signs of anything changing after about 30 minutes, we decided to return to camp for breakfast.
Our plans were to start the afternoon drive by going past to see if anything had changed. With it being such a warm day, the chance of him doing anything were pretty slim, and lo and behold, he was still there! He was off the ground, safe, in a sheltered, shady, cool spot.
Now nestled up in the main fork of the tree, our view of him slightly obscured by a few guarrie bushes in the foreground but nonetheless it was amazing to see.
Once again the waiting game began, to see if he may move. After a day’s patience we were rewarded as we saw him wake up, move around a little and reposition himself.
A leopard will often begin to groom itself and yawn a few times in short succession as a precursor to a period of activity. It had not cooled down quite significantly and, as evening was approaching the chances of any activity were increasing.
Every day here comes with its surprise, especially as a ranger.
Now that I’ve ticked one of my trees that I’ve always dreamed of seeing a leopard in, it’s time to move on to the next 50 or so that are still out there, waiting to have a spotted cat in them as I drive by,,
Filed under Featured General Nature Leopards Safari experience Wildlife
He is such a beautiful leopard. He looked so completely at ease, there where he was sleeping all snugged up in the shade of the fig tree. So glad he finally woke up so you could take these beautiful foto’s. What a beautiful big fig tree, so shaddy, nor wonder he was reluctant to get up. Lovely to see him decending from the tree. I can never get enough of leopards. Good foto’s Sean.
Sean, I loved all the photos, especially your leopard yawn🤗
Sean, we can see how your patience pays off! Over the years we’ve had a few “lifer” experiences to at Londolozi and look forward to checking off a few more on future visits!
Sean, great capture. Magnificent Leopard
Hi Sean what a,surprise! I always look forward to reading about African vegetation and the fig tree looks magnificent! As well as the Ximungwe male leopard. Thank you for the fresh news on both and the lovely pictures!
Beautiful! How is it that all cats manage to look so supremely comfortable, wherever they’re sleeping.
The textures of the fig trees are amazing and quite beautiful. Quite a backdrop for the Ximungwe young male in itself!
Sean, what a stunning setting💗💗…I’m in love with those beautiful trees and I can understand why you have to stop for a moment or two when passing them……but….to capture the vibrant coat of the Ximungwe male amongst those roots and greenery was just exquisite. 👌🏻‼️
What a wonderful tree and an even more wonderful leopard in it.
What a beautiful sequence of photos Sean!….your wish has finally come true!!…what a magnificent fig tree and to spend time with such a stunning young leopard safely positioned and resting up there..Wow….great story Sean… Almost felt I was there experiencing it with you….thanks for sharing those delightful images…take care
Well, it seems that’s where the patience play yields results. Congratulations on ticking off another box. During my visit coming up in a few weeks, I am hoping to tick off the sighting of a leopard cub – in a tree, on the ground, near the water, on a rock, peaking out from rocks – doesn’t matter the setting, the thrill would be just to see one. But, if it doesn’t happen, then “Next”! There will always be something else to see.
Well worth the wait!
What a terrific tree and a perfect sighting!
Thanks Sean – don’t think I’ve ever seen a leopard curled up and asleep like a domestic cat! Another good sequence of photos and fond memories of the fabulous Londolozi Leopards.
Amazing to see a leopard in a tree like that!
So cool! Glad you revisited and got such great images. As they say, “Stick around for the miracle.” And that you did!
Your writing along with your stunning images brought me a lot of joy. The fig tree is nearly art in itself! Such visual interest! Now, couple that with a leopard and I was hooked! Several of your captures could be wall hangers. Thanks so much!
Absolutely stunning! Definitely on my list to still see a leopard lying in a tree like that
What a beautiful background for that Leopard!