Kalahari: Big Cats II

This is part of a series of photographs from our 2008 and 2009 trips to the Kalahari.  Click here to see a map of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Leopard A: Stopping briefly on western ridge to take a look around the valley (©2009 WMB)

Until our 2009 Kalahari trip we had not seen a whole leopard. We had seen bits of leopard sticking out from behind rocks, and from under the fallen down branches of thorn trees, but never a whole one out in the open.  There was a time we did see two baby leopards (very exciting!) but they were kilometers away up on a ridge, and our camera at the time could only take photos of the general area where we saw them! Mommy leopard was relaxing behind a rock, and wasn’t coming out to pose anyway. Our binoculars were a little better, but not much.

Then came our 2009 trip, with our new gaming viewing strategy (see comment in Kalahari: Big Cats I). And we saw several leopards within the first few days. Granted they weren’t stopping for long to pose either – were on their way somewhere in a hurry, or up in a tree – but we got to see whole leopards at last. We saw leopards in the early morning, at midday, and late in the afternoon.  They obviously hadn’t read the “nocturnal animal” description in our reference book!

Now for the photographic evidence . . . Well, there isn’t much. Leopards still remain shy creatures even if they are running around in daylight. The photos below are those we have of the two leopards who stuck around long enough to have their photos taken. They are basically snapshot photos, but I’ve included them to illustrate the story.

We came across the first leopard (Leopard A) as it was walking fast along the eastern side of the road between Auchterlonie and Twee Rivieren (see map of Kgalagadi). It was moving quickly and we followed it at a respectful distance for over a kilometer, so as not to alarm it. But it didn’t seem to care that we were there. Just padded along at a steady pace. Obviously a cat on a mission!  Then it crossed the road onto the western side and walked a little way before climbing up the ridge to a rocky outcrop. There it had a look around (in a “who has been in my hideout?” kind of way) before disappearing behind a rock.

Leopard A: Moving quickly along the eastern side of the road (©2009 WMB)

Leopard A: Crossing the road (©2009 WMB)

Leopard A: On western side of road (©2009 WMB)

Leopard A: Walking along western ridge (©2009 WMB)

Leopard A: Reaches the rocky outcrop (©2009 WMB)

Leopard A: Checking out its hideout (©2009 WMB)

Leopard A: Now you see him, then you almost don't (©2009 WMB)

The second leopard (Leopard B) was at the Kannaguass water hole north of Nossob (see map of Kgalagadi).  We were out game viewing one day when two guys stopped to tell us they had just come from there, and there was a leopard perched up in the tree, right next to the water hole. Naturally, we just had to get there to see it. At first we saw nothing. Then we spotted a little bit of leopard sticking out.

Leopard B: There's a leopard in this tree - REALLY! (©2009 WMB)

Leopard B: Zooming in . . . do you see the spots in the center of the photo? (©2009 WMB)

Lucky for us the leopard climbed further down the branch to have a look at the Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella) which had come for a drink at the water hole. It was one very nervous Gemsbok! Obviously it sensed the danger and looked around long and carefully before bending down to drink.  A Gemsbok is a very big buck, so there was not much danger from the leopard, I would think.

Leopard B: Moving down the branch (©2009 WMB)

Leopard B: Sits down to take in the view (©2009 WMB)

"The View": A very nervous Gemsbok (©2009 LB)

This is part of a series of photographs from our 2008 and 2009 trips to the Kalahari.  Click here to see a map of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

About lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at http://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and https://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)
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16 Responses to Kalahari: Big Cats II

  1. GeoRoMancer says:

    Once again, very nice photies. I particularly like the one called “Reaches the rocky outcrop” – the orange-brown colour of the rocks matching the leopard, so the animal almost appears translucent!

  2. Yes, you can see why they are so difficult to spot (!) in the wild.

  3. Dave Joubert says:

    Leopard A is obviously a male, and B looks like a female

  4. davidpj says:

    Great shots. It’s not until you see pictures like these that the incredible camoflauge of these creatures is obvious. I wouldn’t back myself to notice them if I was bushwalking!

    • In the Kalahari you’re at even more of a disadvantage because you have to stay in your vehicle between camps. So it’s impossible to spot anything that isn’t reasonably close to the road, or isn’t moving. Early evenings and late afternoons are the best time for seeing animals as they come down to use the water holes.

  5. Leon van Niekerk says:

    I’m very jealous of the leopard photo’s. we spend 2 weeks in Kgalagadi in July 2010 and Leopard was the only cat we DIDN’T see, let alone photograph. We are planning another trip for july 2011 and the mission will be to find the ever elusive spotted cat.
    well done WILLIE

    • Hi there! Thanks for visiting the site. We were VERY lucky to see leopards last year.And changing our game viewing strategy helped as well. Willie did take beautiful photos, didn’t he? Lisa.

  6. Lu says:

    Lucky, lucky girl! I have yet to see a close-up of a leopard IN FULL. Also only bits of leopards – and far away at that. I know people who have seen leopards in their back gardens (literally lounging ’round the pool) not far from the Pilanesburg, where I was working for a while.. Again, by the time I got the call – the cat had moved on.. One day, one day… They really are magnificent creatures -and I prefer them over lions any day. I actually prefer tigers to them all – but in the light of the fact they’re not with us in Africa, leopards win..!

  7. Beautiful pictures Lisa ,great shots of leopards I love the picture were she’s sitting in the tree taking in the view 🙂

  8. I used to live in orapa when I was younger,then moved to England but I miss being able to go to the pan and see the wild life 🙂

  9. Wow…these pics are absolutely gorgeous….Its a dream of mine to see a Leopard in their natural habitat….

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