It had been a particularly tough morning for my tracker Mavuto and me, working hard to try and locate wildlife for our guests. The property was suffering from the onset of a drought and with a lot of the plant life being in recession due to the lack of moisture in the ground and the rising temperatures, the wildlife was becoming scarce as they changed their movements in search of food.
After having been out for several hours, we decided to call it a morning and head back to the lodge for some sustenance of our own. With heat building and attention spans dwindling, I saw the opportunity to play a joke on my fun-loving guests. At the moment I sensed a real lull in their attention, I suddenly slowed the vehicle and with a raised voice shouted, “Leopard! Leopard!” at the same time pointing into the bush. Everyone was now wide awake, some grabbing at cameras, and trying to get a view of this elusive cat… but only to hear me carry on to say, “Can be found in vegetation like this, so make sure you keep watching as you never know!” With this I calmly turned around and drove on. It took a few seconds before they realized I was messing with them and then the insults rolled with lots of laughter. Now we were all awake. We headed up the last stretch back to the lodge.
On route we were about to pass a magnificent baobab tree with a huge natural arch in the trunk. I looked up to admire this titan of a tree when I could not believe my eyes, I saw something and then realized what it was… instantly I slowed the vehicle down and with a shouted whisper pointed into the baobab, “Leopard! Leopard! Leopard!”
My guests, thinking this was me playing another joke, started laughing but as their eyes looked up they saw this gorgeous cat just lying there in the fork of the upper trunk.
Instantly there was lots of excited whispering, “Leopard, there’s a real leopard!” and grappling for cameras. By the time I had managed to stop the vehicle, we were parked near to the tree with this female leopard lying looking down at us and providing many great photographic opportunities.
As we marvelled at this gorgeous cat in the single most mutually complementing scene, she got up and shifted out of sight, leading me to think that she was a bit nervous of our presence. We were all gleaming with excitement over what we’d seen. As I started up and begun to shift past the tree, hoping for one more glimpse at best, we were surprised to find she had simply moved to another branch in more shade and splayed herself out. Upon seeing this young leopard like this I realized that she was completely relaxed with our presence. I positioned the vehicle to enjoy watching her have her cat nap, and radioed the sighting in to the others.
After watching her for some time she decided she had had enough of us and simply dropped down the baobab tree, slunk off over the road and a short way across, ran up another tree which she used to jump across onto another baobab. There she found a shady branch and fall fast asleep. As we had enjoyed over an hour with her, we all agreed it would be more than fair to leave her to rest peacefully.
Since this sighting, this lovely leopardess has been seen multiple times resting up in the various baobabs near to Singita Pamushana Lodge.
If you look at the top of the trunk, 11 o’clock from the top of the hollow arch, in the fork of the branches you will spot her. This wide-angle photo gives the true sense of how enormous this baobab is in comparison to the leopard, and what a sensational sighting it was.