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.