Lucky leopard sightings


Your Guide to Africa


Janine Avery


Spotted tales from the bush

Leopard youngster relaxing on a dead tree

Safaris are often about being in the right place at the right time. However, here at Wilderness, we also know that a lot of safari-luck comes down to expert guides getting you into the right place at the right time, based on their knowledge and understanding of animal behaviour. But regardless of who your guide is, when you head out for your game drive in search of leopards, there is definitely no guarantee that you will come back with a memory card full of pictures. 


But for these lucky staff members, guests and friends of Wilderness, that’s exactly what happened. 10 seconds earlier or later, and they certainly wouldn’t have had these tales to share. The result of a great guide? A little bit of luck? Or simply being in the right place at the right time? Maybe it’s a combination of all three…

A fishing leopard in Rwanda

“On arrival at Akagera National Park, we met our guide, Herman. Driving through the park to Wilderness Magashi, Herman told us about the area and what species we could expect to find. Most intriguing was the possibility of seeing the famed ‘fishing leopards’ at Lake Rwanyakazinga, which Magashi overlooks. On our second afternoon we went out on the boat, and as we made our way across Magashi Peninsula, Herman asked us to pull out our binoculars. 


There on the far side of the distant lake shore an animal was sitting at the water’s edge. We had a look and were astonished to see it was a leopard, sitting very still, watching the water intently. She slinked off when we got closer, but later we hopped on the vehicle and went past the same spot. This time it was almost dark but we could see her silhouette against the water; she was watching fish jump around the shallows. We unfortunately did not see her catch one but her behaviour kept us enthralled. Apparently, she has discovered it is easier to catch fish than compete with the lion pride for impalas”. – Mary-Anne van der Byl, Wilderness Senior Graphic Designer




A mating pair of leopards in the Delta

“Just seven minutes outside of Wilderness Chitabe we spotted not one, but two leopards moving across a dry floodplain. We followed them for well over an hour as we enjoyed the noisy and sometimes chaotic courtship of this pair. We watched their mating sessions, and the male leopard even attempted to hunt, but failed. They ambled through different habitats, scent-marking, climbing termite mounds, passing zebra, elephant, kudu and impala, before eventually fading into the shadows of the riverine forest. 


It's not often that you are able to witness so many different behaviours all in one sighting, and with the audio of their aggressive mating episodes disappearing into the darkness, all that was left for us was a sliver of sunset light to celebrate with a gin and tonic”. – Andrew van den Broeck, Wilderness Travel Designer

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The leopard cub and the python

“We were out on a drive at Wilderness Mombo when we heard a soft crying sound. We scanned the bush and saw a tiny leopard cub next to the road. As the little cub cried and cried, we became increasingly concerned but thankfully, before my nerves gave out, the cub’s mother arrived. She located the hole in the tree where she had been hiding her cubs and slid inside. We felt relieved, until we saw her quickly retreat from the hole.


A huge python had found the den and had eaten one of her cubs. Luckily the one we had seen had fallen out of the hole. So, the mother had no choice but to take her surviving cub and try to find a new hideout.


Fast forward a year in the future and on a return trip to Mombo, we sighted a beautiful female leopard posing in a tree. Lo and behold, this was the python survivor. We could hardly believe it, watching the little cub that had been through so much, now grown up. The following afternoon we found her again, but this time she had a surprise for us. In the late afternoon light, she revealed her own two cubs, playful and energetic, bouncing through the trees. An unforgettable experience”. – Cayley Christos, former Wilderness Mombo Manager




A successful owl hunter

“One of the great leopard sightings I had was at Wilderness Savuti in Botswana’s Linyanti Wildlife Reserve. This particular leopard was known to local guides as a small-bird expert and I saw her hunting barn owls. She had managed to find a peep-hole in a tree, where she could look in and see who was in the nest. Then using the ‘peep and grab’ method she checked the nest from the outside, swung around and grabbed the chicks out of the nest, and ate them in the tree, one at a time. While fascinating to watch I am sure it was absolute terror for the next chick waiting it’s turn”.  – Vincent Shacks, Wilderness Group Impact Manager




A fitting send-off at Wilderness Mombo

"It was the final evening for us at Wilderness Mombo and we were just taking in our last sunset in Botswana’s Okavango Delta when the silence was shattered by the loud barks of a chacma baboon. Our guide, Ollie, stopped the vehicle immediately and we waited in anticipation. Peering through the tall bushes, we caught sight of a leopard, looking right at us. Her golden coat gleamed in the fading light. Then out of nowhere, came a smaller leopard – a cub about 10 months old.


They walked side by side, before climbing a sausage tree, and settling to take in the last light of the day. Witnessing this intimate moment between mother and cub stirred a deep reverence in us. We spent until sundown with the leopard duo until it was time leave and say goodbye to one of the wildest and most incredible locations we had ever been to”. – Suyash Keshari, Founder – Ameliya Safaris

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A brave porcupine puts up a fight

“We were following a young male leopard at Wilderness Chitabe in the Okavango Delta that was in turn following a scent. He disappeared into a hole under a tree and I could hear growling and digging. Then suddenly two porcupines came flying out of the opposite side of the tree. The leopard gave chase. One porcupine got away but the other stopped and turned its back on the big cat. Leopards will eat anything from insects to large antelopes, but a porcupine makes a formidable opponent.


The leopard kept trying to reach his paw around the front, and underneath of his quills, but the porcupine would always turn to present its sharp side or try to reverse into his attacker. After 15 minutes, the defeated leopard lay down and concentrated on removing the quills stabbed into his side. The porcupine’s lost defences would soon grow back”. – Dana Allen, wildlife photographer and regular Wilderness contributor




Not one, but two, photogenic leopards

“While at Wilderness Mombo, a call came through early on our morning game drive and we slowly approached a female leopard walking through the woodlands. We followed her as she passed several big fallen leadwood and jackalberry trees, hoping for an iconic picture of a leopard in a tree. After about 30 minutes, she climbed onto a massive termite mound. As an excellent professional photographer friend said later, ‘A leopard on a termite mound is even more memorable than one in a big tree’. And he should know, considering he is permanently on safari and has photographed it all.





The following day, our guide heard some baboons making alarming calls. Most of them ran in one direction as if chasing something, and it was not long before we spotted another leopard. As we followed him, the baboons left him, only to be replaced by two hyenas following him. This led to a period of hide-and-seek, until finally the leopard managed to foil the hyena by lying down in the brush as they walked past, missing him completely. We followed him for another 30 minutes before giving him his space”. – Carel Loubser, Wilderness Head of Trade & Partnership Marketing

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Rolling around in the Linyanti

“I remember my very first Wilderness trip in 2016. We were driving to Wilderness Linyanti Tented Camp and rounded a corner close to the entrance to Wilderness King’s Pool. Our guide was the first to exclaim ‘leopard’, and there in an open clearing, the black and golden cat lay. I had seen many leopards on safari before, but there was something extra special about this sighting. The leopard was calm. It looked up at our vehicle, and six excited onlookers, fresh out of the city, and then playfully rolled over, catching our eye.


It rolled from one side to the other and we sat mesmerised by its beauty, the only vehicle at this sighting. I later came to understand this is what makes Wilderness journeys so special; it is often just you, your guide and the wild – a rarity in today’s world and a memory I have looked back on fondly through the years”. – Kate MacWilliam, Wilderness Group Head of Marketing




Two leopards within 10 minutes

“Not 10 minutes from Wilderness Chitabe, we came across a scattering of porcupine quills, drag marks and leopard spoor. Lying defeated on an ant mound, a rather worn-looking male leopard glared at us before disappearing into the coppery grass. We decided to leave the old leopard in peace and went on our way. Just a few moments later we heard over the radio that another male leopard had been spotted nearby. We found him lounging in a sausage tree, warming his face in the sun. We parked below the tree, happy to be in his company. It wasn’t long before a small herd of kudus, with a number of youngsters, came picking through the grass. The leopard stiffened. Totally unaware, a young kudu munched on the red flowers of the sausage tree that lay scattered on the ground below.


Judging by his healthy condition, this was a modus operandi of his; lie in wait and drop on to unsuspecting antelope. He kept a close eye on them, while we kept a close eye on him, but he decided to settle down for an afternoon snooze. We circled back to his sausage tree later that afternoon, only to find him feeding on an impala ram he’d caught at the base of his tree. Never a dull day in the Delta”. – Lauren Dold, Wilderness Trade Communication & Content Manager



A leopard with her breakfast

“We were up early and out on game drive with our guide Mike Tebogo from Wilderness Qorokwe when Mike spotted a leopard lying in a fallen tree. If it weren’t for Mike checking the tree every morning, we would probably never have seen her in this magnificent setting. We spent a solid hour watching her hunt some passing guineafowls, but when that failed, she turned her attention to a squirrel hiding in the dead tree log. Astoundingly she never gave up trying until she had trapped it and made short work of her breakfast”. – Caroline Culbert, Wilderness Visual Media Administrator & Photographer

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Wilderness Botswana

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