The Camp Cat

This post is part of  Kalahari  Series II – 2011. The previous post in the series is Frenzy at the “water hole” – includes the movie . Also see Kalahari Series I – 2009.

I have previously described the Grootkolk Wilderness Camp (Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park) in this post.

Grootkolk is a remote camp situated north of the bigger Nossob camp. Here the vegetation has changed from the red dunes of the south to savanna. We always see the most beautiful sunsets at Grootkolk.

It is also big predator country – lions and leopards often pass through the camp, and sometimes even stay close to the waterhole for a couple of days. On game drives close by we have also seen cheetah.

During our visit there this year, we shared the camp with a group of friends. On the evening I described in the post Campfire story: The Last Outpost, we all gathered at the communal fireplace to have a braai (barbecue). It was a very good evening to be there, as we got to see the “resident leopard” which had been living close to the camp.

First sighting

Date: 17 August 2011 – Approximately 18:25

Place: Grootkolk Wilderness Camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (see map). We were all busy around the camp and fireplace preparing the evening meal, when we suddenly became aware of something at the waterhole – approximately 50 metres away. As the sun was setting, it was difficult to get clear photographs, but Heyns (one of our friends), had camera with a serious zoom lens, and captured the whole sighting with these beautiful photographs.

Yes, it’s a spotty kitty cat! You can see that although its head is down, it’s still looking up and keeping an eye on things. ©Heyns Kotze

The leopard hears a noise behind it . . . ©Heyns Kotze

 . . . and turns around to have a look ©Heyns Kotze

Then carries on drinking, but is much more alert – with its ears back and its body turned slightly.  ©Heyns Kotze

Finally, it’s had its fill and moves away from the waterhole. ©Heyns Kotze

©Heyns Kotze

It stops to sniff the air. What is it smelling? Us humans, or the meat we are busy cooking on the fire? ©Heyns Kotze

It stops to smell various bushes and leave its own scent behind. ©Heyns Kotze

Then ambles on . . . ©Heyns Kotze

©Heyns Kotze

Giving us one last look . . . “I know you’re there!” ©Heyns Kotze

From the time we first spotted the leopard, to when it finally walked off into the long grass and we lost sight of it, took about 11 minutes. During which time I could hardly breathe.

Second sighting

After looking at all the photographs, and because this was so close to the camp, I think that this is the same leopard as we saw the previous evening at the Grootkolk camp.

Date: 18 August 2011 – Approximately 08:40

Place: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. On a game drive north of the Grootkolk Wilderness Camp.

Around a bend in the road, suddenly there’s a leopard out in the open. ©Heyns Kotze

A closer look ©Heyns Kotze

It stops and turns. “Not you lot again!” Check out its cool cat stare! ©Heyns Kotze

In no hurry to get away from us, it continues padding along down the road for several minutes. ©Heyns Kotze

Then moves to the side of the road to take a better look and sniff . ©Heyns Kotze

©Heyns Kotze

Nope, not the right place . . . It turns back onto the road and continues walking. ©Heyns Kotze

Eventually, it finds the spot it’s looking for and leaves the road.

Sitting for a last photo op before turning away and disappearing into the tall grass. ©Heyns Kotze

Thanks to Heyns Kotze for allowing me to use his beautiful photographs for this post.

The Kalahari 2011 Series:

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 and (my photoblog)
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14 Responses to The Camp Cat

  1. Slowvelder says:

    Gosh these pictures are superb – excellent photography Heyns!

  2. Laura says:

    Beautiful pictures — thanks for posting this.

  3. What a gorgeous cat! The markings are amazing. Thanks to Heyns for sharing the lovely photos.

  4. Oh, wow, what an experience. And these photos are outstanding. Love this cat. Thanks for sharing!

  5. jacquelincangro says:

    What excellent photos!
    This is one elegant cat. Everything from her markings to the slope of her tail and arch of her feet are so graceful.
    Do they often travel alone?
    Side note: my friends are off to South Africa tomorrow for 3 weeks! I don’t know their whole itinerary except for one thing – they are taking the “garden route”. Are you familiar with it? I’ll have to get more details when they post updates along the way.

    • Yes, leopards are primarily solitary animals. You’ll sometimes see a female with a biggish cub, but rarely two adult leopards together. Very different to the bigger groups which lions live in.

      The Garden Route is where I live! It’s a section of the Southern Coast which has a lot of forests, and (when we’re not having a drought) all year rainfall. So it’s pretty green here throughout the year.

      • jacquelincangro says:

        Wow! That’s so funny. I’ll send her a quick message. She said she’s nervous about the drive because she read that the road is winding and near the edge of cliffs. And of course she’s not used to driving on the other side of the road. 😛
        She’s flying out today and it’s an 18 hour flight.

  6. Reggie says:

    Wow! These are beautiful pictures… well done to Heyns for capturing them. Elegant and graceful describe her perfectly.

  7. scottrandall says:

    Great photos! Thanks for wetting our appetite for our December trip to your incredibly beautiful country!

  8. Awesome photos, the one thing we didn’t see was leopard and that is why I’m going back in April (hopefully a bit cooler than January). If only I could be as lucky as you to get a sighting, let alone two, of a leopard like this. You can check out the story of our mid-summer visit here:

  9. FAaaaaNTASTIC CAT! Gorgeous.

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