One of the Big Five, the leopard is right up there with the lion on the shortlist of wildlife that people most want to see on safari in Africa. Seeing this silent and watchful predator with its distinctive coat and formidable air is a spellbinding experience in the bush. Witnessing this stocky feline leaping into action to make a kill is an even rarer and more unforgettable safari highlight! Here is a some insight into the behaviour of this graceful cat that makes sighting it on game drives so tricky.
Finding the Evasive Leopards of Africa
The leopard (Panthera Pardus) is a feline of unequalled prowess and majesty - an opportunistic and stealthy predator, able to hunt prey of all sizes with its powerful jaws and massive skull. This agile, big cat is able to scale trees even when carrying a large carcass in order to avoid scavengers.
The leopard is a solitary carnivore that seeks cover in trees or caves during the day, unlike lions which can often be seen napping in the shade by the pride. The smallest of Africa's big cats, leopards are excellently camouflaged in the dappled shade of tree branches and in long grasses, which adds to the difficulty of sighting them. Despite being more widespread than lions, leopards are less commonly sighted, another reason being that they are elusive nocturnal predators that make as little noise as possible while hunting.
Best Place to See Leopards in Africa
Considering how difficult it is to spot this shy cat in the wild, knowing where your chances are best is a good place to start when planning your safari.
Three of Africa's wilderness areas where you are most likely to successfully track leopards down and watch them in the bush are: Sabi Sands (South Africa); South Luangwa Valley (Zambia) and Masai Mara (Kenya). Here we take a closer look at the first of the three top places to see leopards in Africa.
Supreme Sightings - Leopards in Sabi Sand Game Reserve
The exclusive Sabi Sands in the south west of the vast Kruger National Park is possibly the best place for leopard sightings in Africa.
Exclusive and private, the game reserve boasts world-class facilities in an wilderness area hosting abundant African wildlife. Night game drives provide opportunities for intriguing sightings of this most elusive and elegant member of the Big Five.
Sabi Sands is home to the most luxurious of private game lodges, including Mala Mala and Londolozi, and perhaps boasts the highest leopard density of any private game reserve in South Africa.
Almost all game lodges have traversing rights across the entire reserve and have at numerous vehicles for game viewing, all of which stay in touch with each other by radio communication. A limit of three vehicles at any given sighting ensures front row seats for viewing the abundant game, and almost certainly the Big Five. There are many lion prides, rhino’s, zebras, giraffes, species of antelope and a wide array of birds, along with leopards.
Private game lodges offer the best in terms of exclusivity, with superlative accommodation, excellent cuisine and silver service, coupled with spectacular game viewing shared between a lucky few (most luxurious lodges have a maximum of only six people per vehicle) accompanied by an experienced ranger and dedicated wildlife tracker. Luxury and discretion are a given.
Luxury & Leopards at Londolozi Game Reserve in Sabi Sands
Londolozi Private Game Reserve is synonymous with South Africa’s finest safari experience, offering world-class lodges and unparalled game viewing. The Big Five abound, and the leopards of Londolozi are world-renowned. A leopard sighting is almost guaranteed in this part of South Africa.
The Londolozi Tree Camp, the first Relais & Chateaux game lodge in the world, is tucked away on the banks of the Sand River in the shade of indigenous trees and thick riverine bushes. This deluxe lodge boasts a stylish and elegant designer interior, in contrast with the wild African bush that surrounds it. The lodge’s exclusivity is characterised by only six en-suite luxury suites, each with its own private viewing deck and plunge pool, and sole-use sala, or covered viewing deck. Underfloor heating and large windows overlooking the untamed surrounds complete the five-star experience. To ensure peace and tranquillity, no children under sixteen years are permitted at Londolozi Tree Camp.
The Londolozi Pioneer Camp is the most secluded and intimate of the safari camps, comprising only three private suites overlooking the river. Outdoor showers and air-conditioned suites make for luxurious exclusivity in the bush. Ralph Lauren décor and floor-to-wall sliding windows create a pristine interior for enjoying the captivating views. Blazing fireplaces welcome guests during winter, and outdoor dining amid the African night sounds invites guests in the warm summer months. The resident female leopard is usually on the prowl as she hunts her prey under the cover of dark. Children under twelve years are not permitted at this remote lodge.
Known for its sightings of the elusive leopard, the Granite Suites of Londolozi offer unique exclusivity with only three private suites, each with a heated rock pool. Each luxurious suite is decorated in silver-grey hues that mimic the granite rocks of the riverbed setting that the suites overlook. At night, each haven is lit by a wonderland of flickering candles. Children under sixteen are not allowed.
- Here is our expertly curated selection of luxury Safaris to Sabi Sands Game Reserve.
Walking Safaris at Night - Timbavati's Leopards
Timbavati Nature Reserve is another luxury African Safari destination, which lies within the vast Greater Kruger Park. Sightings of the Big Five, as well as an array of other wildlife and abundant bird life ensure a memorable safari experience in this private game reserve, bordering on Kruger National Park. The lure of the leopard and the African bush, is perfectly complemented by the luxury of elite upmarket, world-class accommodation for the discerning traveller wishing to have an exceptional African safari experience.
One of the most outstanding features of Timbavati is that safari-goers can embark on overnight walking safaris, staying at premier camps out in the African bushveld.
Simbavati Photographic Safari - combine one of the most beautiful cities on earth - Cape Town, with world-class game viewing in the private Timbavati reserve of Greater Kruger Park. On this specialised photographic safari an expert professional photographer helps you to capture that ultimate wildlife shot!
To view more exclusive accommodation options and luxury safaris to the best wilderness areas to see leopards in Africa, speak to one of our experienced travel consultants.
Banner image by Earth Touch on Flickr.
Reference: Fodor’s The Complete African Safari Planner, Second edition, Random House 2011