Where to see…. Leopards in Africa!!
Where to see…. Leopards in Africa, It is the question safari guides across Africa dread the most: ‘Will we see a leopard?’It is the question safari guides across Africa dread the most: ‘Will we see a leopard?’ The answer is difficult because although the leopard is found from the lush Cape Winelands in the south to northern Kenya, the leopard’s mastery of camouflage and stealth makes it extremely elusive.
A leopard’s beautiful coat has captivated us for millennia, its rosettes are still in fashion from Paris to Zululand. Leopards radiate a muscular feline grace and move like liquid gold – seeing one of these magnificent creatures wild and free in their natural environment transforms a game drive into a lifelong memory.
Which brings us back to whether you will see one – or not. Diverse in their choice of habitat, leopards are part of the Big 5 club and many parks and reserves promote themselves as home to the full complement. For the very best chances of seeing them, you need to be in prime habitat where concentrations are greatest. Ultimately, a leopard sighting, especially a good one, is usually about luck. But you can shorten the odds considerably at these places.
Where to see…. Leopards in Africa!!
Kruger National Park – South Africa
If you have to see a leopard then go to the place where their populations are the densest in Africa – and that means the Sabi Sands, a collection of exclusive-use private reserves on the Kruger National Park’s western boundary.
Moremi Game Reserve – Botswana
Moremi protects much of the Okavango Delta, Botswana’s wildlife showpiece. The temptation is to head as deep as possible into the Delta but you are far more likely to see leopards on its fringes.Water collects in shallow lagoons and fills grassy floodplains; tall forest and thick bush dominate drier ground. Antelope, birds, monkeys and rodents honk, whistle and squeak from every corner. Perfect leopard country.
How to do it: choose a lodge that focuses on game drives rather than boat-based activities. It does not matter if you stay in the reserve itself or one of its adjoining private concessions.
South Luangwa – Zambia
Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is rumoured to have Africa’s greatest number of these elegant big cats. A wide and fertile plain nourished by the Luangwa River, the park’s animals range from aardvark to zebra and it has long been known for its dense concentrations of predators, especially lions and leopards.
South Luangwa’s lodges are scattered along the riverbanks or overlook ox-bow lakes, making leopard sightings possible from camp let alone when you head out on game drives. Unusually for a national park, night drives are permitted, and do not skip a walking safari.
Samburu & Masai Mara reserves – Kenya
Images of snorting wildebeest migrations and flamingo-covered lakes are probably first to mind when thinking about Kenya’s wildlife but the Samburu and Masai Mara National Reserves have reputations for excellent leopard sightings.
You’ll be going a bit off the beaten path at Samburu but it is worth it. An area of barren woodland decorated with rocky outcrops and thick riverine bush, it lays claim to the title of the best place in Kenya to see leopards, something fans of the Masai Mara may dispute. Although much of the Mara is open rolling grassland more suited to cheetah, lion and hyena, there is prime leopard habitat along its rivers; it is not for nothing that the reserve and its private conservancies were chosen as the location for the BBC’s Big Cat Diaries.
Memories of game sightings fade. Photos of lions and elephants are met with puzzled expressions (‘now where was this taken?’) but leopard sightings are remembered like they were yesterday. Each one was like falling in love for the first time – and that is no bad thing.
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