Since arriving at Londolozi a year and a half ago, I have had the privilege of spending time with many different leopards. The high density of leopards in the Sabi Sands Reserve is truly phenomenal. Seeing these leopards as often as we do, you begin to understand their movements and behaviour better. One male in particular is quite methodical in his territorial patrols and will often be found patrolling the same routes, to protect and defend his territory.
A leopard who took advantage of the death of the 4:4 male in 2016 to grab territory to the west of the Londolozi camps.
The Flat Rock male established a territory at Londolozi in late 2016. Still a young male at the time, he was fortunate that the Robson’s male had been killed by lions and the area west of Londolozi camp was left vacant for him to start establishing a territory.
This rangy male was an enigma, arriving on Londolozi in the mid to latter parts of 2014 and staying mainly in the western areas.
Being just younger than four years old and still nowhere near full size, he was very lucky to have any territory at all. As the years rolled on he grew into his prime and now occupies a huge territory that expands from the western boundary to the eastern boundary along the sand river and north of it, crossing our northern boundary from time to time.
Because his territory is separated by the Sand River, we know that he crosses it frequently but have seldom seen him doing so.
We had a fantastic crisp winter’s morning, spending the majority of it with the Xinzele female in the northern parts of Londolozi. The beautiful young female leopard had an impala kill in a picturesque Ebony tree and we were even fortunate enough to see her drinking from a pool in the Manyelethi River before returning back to the ebony tree where she settled down to rest.
We started heading back towards camp and just after crossing back south of the Sand River, when we had reports from Chris Taylor that the Flat Rock Male was walking towards the river. Because he is quite predictable in his movements, we had one thing on our mind…
Although I knew it was a long shot, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. The first sight we had of him was when we got to an area on Londolozi referred to as the beach, directly next to a big channel of the Sand River. Again, because of the size of the channel, we didn’t expect much. We looped around and positioned in the Sand River (avoiding getting stuck and being awarded the pink pouch) to try and get in the best spot to watch him drink.
He cautiously approached the spot where we thought he was going to drink and what happened next was beyond our wildest dreams. He neglected to drink and was staring at the flowing water with intent and before we knew it, Tracker Bennet said:
“He’s going to jump!”
And not one second later, we watched poetry in motion. He sprung like I have never seen a leopard do before, clearing what had to be around eight meters of water.
Our guests, Bennet and I were all at a loss for words at what had just happened in front of our eyes.
The Flat Rock Male continued moving through the dried-up middle section of the riverbed not giving us much time to let it sink in. Approaching the northern channel, I was constantly thinking about what would be the best place to watch the next jump. The northern channel, a lot wider than the previous crossing, was going to be more of a challenge for him.
Knowing that he wouldn’t make the jump, he began walking through the channel very carefully. He moved with a careful and calculated approach in order not to attract any crocodiles that may be lurking in the depths. The whole process took about 15 minutes and once he made it to the northern side, we all just sat there in silence for a few minutes watching him wander off to continue his territorial patrol.
What amazed me the most about this sighting, and many other sightings we have here at Londolozi was the fact that while this was a common occurrence for the Flat Rock Male, for us watching it might be a once in a lifetime sighting and something we will remember forever.