When looking for a leopard on one of our morning or afternoon game drives, many guests simply ask “Do we just look in the trees?”. While we are lucky to have the opportunity to look for many different leopards at Londolozi, it is not always as simple as drive out and spot one draped over a tree branch.
In searching for a leopard we often incorporate the help of everyone on the vehicle, telling the guests that the best places to look are on top of termite mounds, in the shade of a bush, sometimes in a marula tree. Look for the black rosettes, contrasting black behind the ears, or the bright white tail tip flicking around to chase flies.
Often we find leopards by using the sounds of the bush, the trill of a squirrel, or the snort of an impala alarm calling…letting us know that the leopard is nearby. All of these signs point us in the right direction when searching for a leopard.
There is one leopard in particular that has become a rarity and it’s a lot of being in the right place at the right time scenario. Her territory ranges from the dense riparian forest along the Sand River down our eastern boundary. But what’s special about this leopard is not only that she is elusive, creating a sense of mystery but that she is also a successful mother of two cubs. A set of guests I recently drove were thrilled to see her cubs so we headed out in search for this female, the Nkoveni Female.
A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
Little did we know that it was not going to be that easy. It took us three days of tracking to eventually find her. Having heard that the Nkoveni Female was found one afternoon, we made it our mission to find her the next morning.
We found tracks of only her cubs in a drainage line, where the trackers decided to follow on foot and managed to find the two cubs, but without the Nkoveni Female being there we decided to leave them and rather search for the mother, as to not put any unnecessary pressure on the cubs without the protection and alertness of the mother being around. Driving every road in the area hoping to find more tracks of the mother, eventually, Andrea found her on the hunt. Getting there just in time to watch her cross over the boundary, we still had hope because her cubs were still on our side. That afternoon we tried again, driving the boundary, and found no tracks of her returning. Just as we were about to give up the search for her and move on to look for something else, we had reports of her crossing back our side from our neighbours. It was getting dark and the chances were slim, but we were so excited and tried again the next morning. Nothing. With determination and frustration, we tried again that afternoon, still nothing!
One last chance in the morning and with Barry lending us a hand, we found tracks and began to follow. This time determined to find her with her cubs. We were rewarded with an amazing scene of the mother and two cubs with a kill, with the Maxim’s Male.
She had chosen a tree right next to a termite mound and allowing us to photograph her and her cubs, grooming, jumping up and down the tree, and feeding right next to us.
We were all smiling and so happy we never gave up! The adventure and challenges made every minute of that sighting so magical. What a fantastic job I have, I thought to myself…
Fairly skittish male that is presumed to have come from the Kruger National Park.