This blog is a celebration!
Firstly of two incredible sightings that tracker Freddy and I were able to have over the period of two weeks, where some people spend their lives in the bush hoping to witness a similar scene but are never fortunate enough.
Chris Taylor wrote a series of two blogs, Bucket List sightings at Londolozi- Part 1 and Part 2 and while I agree with every one of those sightings on the list, I just feel he left out one that ranger/tracker teams here at Londolozi would for sure want on the list.
At Londolozi, we are incredibly fortunate to have the special leopard viewing that we do, and this allows us to see into the daily lives of these stunning wild cats. There is something remarkable about spending time with leopards going about their daily business and knowing they have chosen to let you see them. Seeing a leopard resting high in the branches of a tree is one of those things that is at the top of the list. Don’t get me wrong, a leopard lying in any kind of tree is extremely beautiful and a sight that should definitely not be taken for granted. However, there are a few trees where it becomes extra, extra special.
As rangers here at Londolozi there are certain trees dotted over the landscape which we drive past on a daily basis only imagining, some of us even say “dreaming” that one day we will look up to the magnificent sight of a leopard draped over one of its branches.
I would say that a large amount of these trees are are stark and sculptured. This means that they are without any leaves or foliage that may either get in the way of a “perfect” photograph or just in the way of a spectacular view, and often the tree has a lot of detail and texture in its branches and trunk. As well as the ability to have a clear plain open sky as the backdrop, no distracting other foliage to get in the shot.
The two sightings that Freddy and I were able to enjoy, were both just by chance and with us being in the right place at the right time. The first as shown above was a magical sighting of the Plaque Rock Female lying in the most beautifully scenic dead tree. This was my last game drive before going on leave and what better way to finish off a good working cycle than with a stunning leopard in a dead knobthorn tree. The second is depicted below and was of the Ximungwe Young Male now resting in another large tree, this time a beautiful textured leadwood.
Now, this for me is the pinnacle of leopard in a tree viewing. The scene is comprised of stunning detail. The rosettes of the leopard’s coat against fissured trunk and limbs of the slowly weathering dead tree.
The chances of seeing a leopard lying up in this prehistoric leadwood tree are extremely slim, making it that much more desirable. Most times, the reason a leopard is in a tree is that it is either feeding or resting in the same tree that it has stashed a carcass in. It is incredibly uncommon for leopards to hoist their kills into dead trees. The reason being vultures and other scavenging birds would easily see the kill in the leafless tree and draw all unwanted attention to the leopard. In the forms of potentially other leopards following the vultures and stealing the kill, hyenas lurking around the tree making it difficult to descend the tree and rest in the shade, or even lions coming across to investigate and possibly even steal the kill.
Both sightings were absolutely incredible. It is hard to quite explain the feeling around the scene, it is in my eyes a scene of pure beauty. Where the leopard and leadwood compliment each other so well in the eye of a photographer. Having a chance to whiteout the background in a high key shot. I am so grateful that I have been able to live out this dream not just once but twice in such a short space of time and I hope (if you haven’t already) you can all experience it for yourself one day.
Alright, so if you are ever lucky enough to see a leopard lying up in a dead tree, whether it is a dead Knobthorn, Marula, or for me, the most spectacular – an old leadwood tree, enjoy every moment in that sighting. Take as many pictures as you can and cherish the moment.
Below are a number of other stunning scenes captured over the years – a true celebration of leopards in Leadwood’s for your indulgence.
A pretty young playful female found along the river to the east of camp
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
He was born in 2009 in a litter of three, with his siblings being the Nanga female and Nyelethi 4:3 male.
A gorgeous female who is found to the east of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
Born in 2016, this male spent his early years in the south-east of Londolozi, but began moving further afield in late 2019.