I have been privileged to see leopards on many occasions in locations ranging from Kruger Park to the Serengeti and Tsavo. In this post I want to share a few images of these beautiful, lithe, self-sufficient predators with you.
“Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.”
A young female leopard in Mashatu, in south-eastern Botswana. It was late afternoon, she was wandering along the river course and had stopped in her wanderings to be quiet and listen.
The next morning, we found her again but this time away from the river. She found a perfect curve in the bough of a tree and made herself comfortable.
Another occasion in Mashatu. We found this young male leopard dozing in the early part of the evening in a dry river bed.
“True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.”
A beautiful leopardess with stunning green eyes. Very confident and relaxing in the early morning after what may have been a busy night. An iconic leopard pose.
A female leopard walking away from the Chobe river, in northern Botswana, having just had a drink. She was walking back to her cub waiting in a thicket close by.
A big male leopard in Mashatu. It was early morning and this male was waiting in the brush on a bank above a pool of water in the mostly dry river bed.
I kept this image dark as it was early in the morning and this male was lying in the deep shadows just after sunrise. This was a perfect ambush position for anything coming down for a drink of water.
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi
This young male leopard in Mashatu had caught and killed a female impala. He was moving his catch to a more concealed position to eat in private.
He finally found a spot with greater cover. Sometimes nature reveals unexpected tenderness.
It did not take him long to start feasting. He first pulled the hair off the skin in the area of the carcass he wanted to open up.
A female leopard called “Rockfig Junior” in the Timbavati, adjacent to the Kruger Park in South Africa. She was leading her son to the place where she had stashed her kill about a kilometre away. The dry grass in the background showed that it was winter in the Timbavati.
“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul. “
Early evening and the sun had set in Mashatu. This young female leopard was spread-eagled on a large bow of a branch from a fig tree overhanging the Majale river.
The green-eyed leopardess shown earlier in this post. It was two years later and it was around 8h30 in the morning and she was walking along a dry river bed. Our guide told us that she was walking back to a cub further down river. We never got to see the cub. She stopped to take in various scents. There must have been many scent signposts along that part of the river.
Another young female leopard stopped in her wanderings in the late afternoon along the Majale river to climb up a fallen branch of a Mashatu tree. She probably wanted to get a better view of the surrounding area and us.
Having assessed the lie of the land, she continued her walk along the edge of the Majale river in Mashatu.
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
A young male leopard in the short grass alongside a series of small dams in Tsavo West National Park in south-east Kenya. This leopard managed to kill a Dik-Dik behind us and close to a large herd of buffalo without any of us or the buffalo noticing. Another vehicle arrived behind us only to tell us there was a leopard eating its prey less than 25 metres behind us.
In the Masai Mara, on the &Beyond Conservancy below the Kitchwa Tembo camp, we found this leopardess “treed”.
Below was a pride of lionesses and their cubs. They had been wandering along the edge of the tree line down towards the Mara river when they came across this leopardess and her cub on the ground.
The lions immediately attacked. The leopardess bounded for the tree but the cub was too young to follow her and a lioness killed it. After the lions milled around the dead leopard cub, a young male lion took possession of the kill.
This was a heart wrenching scene. This leopardess was completely out numbered and all she could do was snarl at the devastation below her. She watched the whole thing; watched her cub being killed and the juvenile male lion running off with it.
He quickly picked the leopard cub up in his jaws and ran off with it.
“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
After waiting quite a while for the lions to move off, she descended the tree to look for her cub.
She was desperately searching for her cub without moving into an exposed position, but her cub was lying dead some distance off in the open behind a tall tuft of grass so she could not see it.
On a more peaceful note, we found this young female leopard in a huge Mashatu tree. She had stacked her kill in this tree and peered out through this fork in the tree.
She was very relaxed and was not fussed in the least about us underneath the tree.
“Freedom: To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.”
~ Ayn Rand
Late in the afternoon in the Serengeti. This large male leopard was out in the open lounging on the bough of a large fever tree looking down on the world on his own terms.
We were about fifty metres away on the dirt road so he paid no attention to us.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go.”
A leopard peered out from the undergrowth alongside the river in Mashatu.
In the Serengeti, we were driving slowly southwards. This part of the Serengeti is patterned with huge grasslands intersected by groves of acacias. How our guide saw these young leopards way off the road in the grass on our right hand side, I will never know. We had to drive much closer before we could see them. There were two youngsters out on their own.
“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. “
~Henry David Thoreau
They were playing in the grass running around and chasing each other. It was a carefree early morning playtime scene.
Out of the sun and in the grove of acacias, the colour of the light took on a blue hue in the shade.
It was at the end of January in Eagle’s Rock estate near Witbank in Mpumalanga, South Africa. We were staying with friends Bill and Judy. It had been raining most of the day but there had been a break in the weather late in the afternoon so we decided to go out for a game drive. As we were driving through an area of natural sandstone sculptured rock there were many flat-topped rocks. I said to Judy wouldn’t it be wonderful if we saw a leopard lying on top of one of these flat topped sandstone rocks. Incredibly, about five minutes later Judy pointed to something lying on a sandstone rock about 100 metres off the road. This big male leopard watched us slowly make our way, by vehicle, towards him. He was completely unperturbed by us.
He watched us but was much more interested in the herd of zebra and wildebeest behind us on the open grassland. He was especially interested in the numerous calves in the herd.
I will never get tired of seeing these beautiful, camouflaged, confident, independent beings.
“No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.”
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.