Tag Archives: leopard sighting

Big Cat Country: The Leopards of Singita Sabi Sand

October 21, 2015 - Experience,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

“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!”

The leopards of Singita Sabi Sand

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 leopards of Singita Sabi Sand

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

Singita Ebony Lodge

The leopards of Singita Sabi Sand

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.

The leopards of Singita Sabi Sand

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.

The leopards of Singita Sabi Sand

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.

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Seeing Spots

August 21, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

There is nothing so remarkable as arriving at the Singita Sabi Sand and encountering a leopard on the first night.  This was the case during my recent visit.  It had been a brief but rewarding sighting as a male leopard walked within a couple of feet of the Land Rover. They are such marvelous animals to watch in their natural environment. Even after spending years observing them, I still have to pinch myself, as it’s barely possible to believe that you can be in such close proximity to them in the wild.

Leopards are not only renowned for their beauty but their incredible strength combined with stealth, making them the ultimate killing machines.  Power to weight they are the strongest cat found in the world.  The male leopard we located was large. There are records of leopards this size hoisting antelope even young giraffes into large trees.  I was anticipating the opportunity of witnessing this in action, as it had been a while since I last saw this raw strength in motion.

Leopards will often hoist their kill, regardless of the size of the prey. This is mainly to protect it from scavenging predators, which are in no short supply in this area!  A short distance from a sizeable drainage line, a small duiker dangled awkwardly in a large tree.  It was rather a macabre sight to see this dead animal wedged between branches, ten feet in the air but not an uncommon visual in the Sabi Sand vicinity and this could only be the work of a leopard.

He had to be close by, the kill was fresh, blood was still trickling from the antelope’s nostrils; my heart started to pound. We scanned the area with painstaking precision, knowing how difficult it is to spot this master of disguise. Patience paid off and eventually I found the leopard seeking shelter from the blistering heat.  It was lying in long grass and with its unique rosettes it was almost impossible to see.

Now the waiting game started. I had seen the leopard and this was good enough by anyone’s standards, but to see it scramble up the tree and claim its prize was what I was after.  I made myself comfortable and positioned the vehicle close to the Apple Leaf trunk where the duiker had been stashed.  It was going to be a good while before the temperature dropped, and I could see the leopard was in no rush to expend any unnecessary energy.

After a good two hours, I heard the leopard coming up behind the vehicle; grabbing my camera I braced myself for what was going to be an incredible show. The animal gracefully leapt into the tree and claimed its trophy.  Almost immediately and on cue, three hyenas, ever the opportunists, scavenged morsels that fell from the tree while the complacent leopard fed.

It was a special moment: one hour of pure bliss where nothing else mattered but the shared company of a wild animal, watching this leopard feed while being surrounded by hyenas in the middle of the African bush. It’s moments like these that you hold on to for the rest of you life.

James Suter, Field Guide, exploring the terrain of Singita Sabi Sand.

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