Shenton Safaris

A model leopard

Leopard sitting in a tree in Kruger National Park, South Africa

© Greg McCall-Peat

Written, and photographs, by Greg McCall-Peat

I believe that every safari-goers dream is to see a leopard when out on game drive – that sense of accomplishment when finding Africa’s most elusive big cat just cannot be beaten. The only thing that could potentially make it any better is when that elusive cat is so relaxed around the presence of the vehicles and people that it poses for photos in just about every angle that you could wish for!

This was the case a couple of weeks ago at Umlani Bushcamp in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, South Africa, when we found one of our resident female leopards (showing signs that she is suckling cubs) clearly on the hunt. It wasn’t long before she went up into a marula tree to get a better view of things, and this was when things became amazing for us onlookers.

Close up of a leopard sitting in Kruger National Park, South Africa

© Greg McCall-Peat

As we were alone at the sighting, it made it possible for us to position our vehicle at any angle in order to get the best photo opportunities that the leopard presented us with. We really got to spend some quality time with her, which is something that doesn’t happen every day.

Leopard sitting in a tree in Kruger National Park, South Africa

© Greg McCall-Peat

Her focused stare only seemed to enhance her beauty – which is why they are probably one of the most photographed animals in Africa. Even in black and white, her markings were stark and striking.

Black and white photo of a leopard in Kruger National Park, South Africa

© Greg McCall-Peat

At one point an approaching kudu bull caught her attention. Even though leopards eat a variety of different prey, for a female leopard like herself, an adult kudu bull is just too big for her to handle.

Leopard sitting in a tree in Kruger National Park, South Africa

© Greg McCall-Peat

It was a cloudy day so the white bright background created an amazing silhouette of her up in the tree.

Leopard silhouette in Kruger National Park, South Africa

© Greg McCall-Peat

When the sound of impala rams rutting nearby made her glance in their direction I couldn’t help but feel like she really was just posing for photos.

Leopard sitting in a tree in Kruger National Park, South Africa

© Greg McCall-Peat

Eventually she locked onto a potential target, and the leopardess readied herself to descend the tree.

Leopard sitting in a tree in Kruger National Park, South Africa

© Greg McCall-Peat

Just before she descended she gave a good stretch and then held the position as if she was holding a yoga pose – an almost comical scene!

After such an incredible sighting I often wonder what the animals we photograph really think. Is it a case of them not caring or not even really noticing our presence? Or do they put on a bit of a show for us? It’s a question we will never get answered, but whatever the case may be, one thing stands out for sure… leopards really are the models of the bush in our eyes.

Leopard stretching in a tree in Kruger National Park, South Africa

© Greg McCall-Peat



Umlani Bush Camp

Umlani is located in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, which shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. This is true Big Five territory and guests have an opportunity to see lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino on safe, expertly guided game drives and bush walks. A Fair Trade certified classic safari camp

Africa Geographic