“You can lie out on the bare ground and look like a heap of pebbles. You can lie out on the naked rocks and look like a piece of pudding-stone. You can lie out on a leafy branch and look like sunshine sifting through the leaves; and you can lie right across the centre of a path and look like nothing in particular. Think of that and purr!”
This excerpt from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories is a perfect explanation as to why it can be tricky to spot a leopard while in the bush. They are elusive creatures, but the Sabi Sand Reserve, in which Singita has a 45,000-acre concession, is very well known for its leopard activity. These cats form an important part of the diversity in the area, with Singita guides and trackers becoming familiar with various resident leopards that have established territory near the Sand River.
The Ravenscourt male
Females are more common, as adult males venture beyond the local area in order to establish new territories for themselves. There is however one male leopard of some significance, who was orphaned by a “rogue” male two years ago. His mother was the fondly-remembered Ravenscourt female; an incredibly beautiful leopardess who was a familiar sight for visitors to Singita Sabi Sand. Her cub subsequently became independent and moved south, while the “rogue” male has settled in the area and is known as the Nyeleti male leopard; a name that means ‘stars’ in Shangaan.
Singita Ebony Lodge
Hlaba’Nkunzi female and her cub
Since losing the Ravenscourt female, Hlaba’Nkunzi, a new female leopard from the western Sabi Sand has taken over her territory and given birth to two litters of cubs. She is an unusually adventurous leopard, and is regularly spotted close to the lodges during the early morning and evening. She even gave birth to her most recent litter under the private pool deck of one of Singita Ebony Lodge‘s suites.
Hlaba’Nkunzi’s young male cub
Over the last 10 months, we have been fortunate enough to observe one of these cubs grow up and adopt some of his mother’s habits, including a quiet tolerance of the game vehicles and a sense of comfort around the lodges. This young male is always a popular character to spot during a game drive, and reminds both guests and staff alike how fortunate we are to be in such close proximity to these incredible animals.
This article is the first in a series of wildlife stories that will showcase the interesting animals found across the five regions in which Singita’s lodges and camps are located. Please subscribe to the blog using the form on the right to ensure that you don’t miss the next one!
You can read more about the Ravenscourt female in this heart-wrenching tribute written by Head Guide, Mark Broodryk, and also see some gorgeous photographs of the first sighting of the Hlaba’Nkunzi cubs.
Special thanks to Ross Couper for the lovely photographs.
As with many South Africans, I grew up visiting game reserves fairly regularly, and going on camping trips in remote locations with my family during school holidays. I completely took for granted that, at a fairly young age, I had seen such incredible creatures as lions and elephants at close proximity, and in their natural habitat.
It was only a couple of years ago when I visited the Kruger National Park for the first time that I realised that for all my childhood game-spotting, I had never seen a leopard in the wild. Their feline grace, exquisite colouring and enigmatic nature totally captivate me, and we spent a week scouring the bushes for these elusive spotted cats but to no avail.
In January I was lucky enough to visit Singita Sabi Sand for the first time and was determined to track down a leopard. James and Leon, my tracking-and-guiding team, were duly briefed and we set off into the wakening bush on the first morning game drive in search of one of the area’s resident leopards. There are a number of handsome males with territories that traverse Singita’s concession in the Sabi Sand; Nyaleti, Ravenscourt and Khashane among them. They are regularly featured in the guides’ Wildlife Reports from the region and have even been spotted in and around the lodges themselves!
It was an absolute thrill an hour later to discover a male leopard walking casually through the bush in front of our vehicle. We followed him through the undergrowth for a short while, and watched him leap silently into a nearby ebony tree, where he used the height of the branches to get a better view of the surrounding area. We sat in the vehicle and watched him quietly for a few moments, astounded by his beauty.
I was lucky enough to have two more leopard sightings in as many days at Singita Sabi Sand; both equally breathtaking. It was an experience that rendered me quite speechless and something I will treasure for the rest of my life.
All photos by field guide Ross Couper. Text by blog manager Julia da Silva.
Singita Sabi Sand is a privately owned game reserve in the Sabi Sand Reserve, adjacent to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Spanning more than 45,000 acres, Singita Sabi Sand is renowned for high concentrations of big game and frequent leopard sightings.
Singita Game Reserves – in South Africa – are made up of four beautiful lodges and one extraordinary camp. These four lodges and one camps are situated in two game-rich areas of Southern Africa.
The first area, which is renowned for the best leopard viewing in the world, is known collectively as Singita Sabi Sand. It is home to the Singita Ebony Lodge – which was (if you remember your Singita history) the founding lodge – Singita Boulders Lodge and Singita Castleton Camp.
The second area, located in the far-east reaches of the Kruger Park, is Singita Kruger National Park. Here you will find Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge. The remote wilderness, of Singita Kruger National Park, is well known for its high concentration of lion and its other unique fauna and flora species.