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Africa Geographic Travel

Written by: Greg McCall-Peat

The Timbavati is known for its leopards and Umlani Bushcamp has one very special resident female that has stolen many hearts, including mine. Her name is Rockfig Jnr – a beautiful blue-eyed female that I have had the pleasure of watching grow up to become one of the most successful adult leopards in the Timbavati.

She is a supermodel and almost every time I see her she seems to be striking a pose for pictures. She plays up for the camera – dreamily rolling around on her back, legs in the air all whilst giving you ‘the look’ with her big blue eyes.

One of my most memorable sightings of her was when she was younger, just coming into independence. This is a trying time for a young leopard as it is a time of crossing over from being a playful, inexperienced cub to becoming one of the most efficient hunters in Africa.

Rockfig Jnr was sitting on the edge of a small pool of water that was boiling with trapped catfish. This should be an easy meal for a youngster who isn’t sure of herself and her capabilities in bringing down big prey. She sat for a good half an hour, fixated on the movement in the water below her, thinking how she could capture one of these slippery morsels. One of my guests asked me how she would catch a fish? Would she jump in? My answer was: “She is a cat.  They hate water so she will probably just paw one out. She’d rather get a wet paw than get completely drenched.”

No sooner had I said this, she suddenly leapt into the pool, missing all of the fish in her attempt to attack, and then proceeded to frantically try to get out as fast as she could, splashing with her front paws and clawing at the water. She eventually made it back to the edge and dragged herself out, not only looking embarrassed but also very much like a drowned rat.

It was one of the funniest things I have seen, but also such a special moment to witness her learning that lesson. Nowadays, to see her as a gorgeous adult, an excellent mother and an efficient hunter is something very few people get to witness and I consider myself very lucky.

Rock Fig Jnr in photos – then and now:

Rockfig Jr at just over a year old, it’s amazing how similar she looks to Nyeleti (her daughter) and how she has grown, currently she is one of the biggest females in the Timbavati you wouldn’t have said that back then.
Rockfig Jr at just over a year old, it’s amazing how similar she looks to Nyeleti (her daughter) and how she has grown. She is currently one of the biggest females in the Timbavati.
Like I said, a model leopard. She has always known how to pose for photos. This was taken once she had become independent and was exploring potential territory. She chose to rest on the bank of a waterhole.
Like I said, she is a model leopard. She has always known how to pose for photos. This was taken once she had become independent, was exploring potential territory and chose to rest on the bank of a waterhole.
Witnessing Rockfig jr on one of her first hunts, as she lay in the grass watching a nearby herd of impala, I really got to see how adult-like she was becoming. No longer the clumsy adventurous cub but a leopard that was coming into her own, set to dominate her world. A moment not everyone gets to experience and something that I truly treasure.
Witnessing Rockfig Jnr on one of her first hunts as she lay in the grass watching a nearby herd of impala. She was no longer the clumsy, adventurous cub but a leopard that was coming into her own, set to dominate her world. A moment not everyone gets to experience and something that I truly treasure.
Rockfig jr has the most beautiful eye. It seems to be in her genes passed down from her mother. Here she was dreamily lazing the day away on a fallen Leadwood tree allowing me to capture this photo of her which to this day is one of my favourites.
Rockfig Jnr has the most beautiful eyes. It seems to be in her genes passed down from her mother. She was lazing the day away on a fallen leadwood tree, allowing me to capture this photo of her – which to this day is one of my favourites.
From a young age Rockfig jr was always curious of the game drive vehicles and never passed up an opportunity to investigate them, here she approached the vehicle in order to give my tracker’s boots a sniff. Yet another priceless moment with this amazing cat.
From a young age Rockfig Jnr was always curious of the game drive vehicles and never passed up an opportunity to investigate them. Here she approached the vehicle in order to give my tracker’s boots a sniff. Yet another priceless moment with this amazing cat.
Today Rockfig jr is even more beautiful as an adult. This picture was taken almost 7 years since I had last seen her. What a moment it was to be reunited with this queen of the Timbavati.
Rockfig Jnr is even more beautiful as an adult. I hadn’t seen her for about seven years when I was reunited with this queen of the Timbavati – what a moment!
A tender moment as Rockfig jr grooms her cub, Sheis an amazing mom and is often found providing kills to her youngsters ensuring they reach independence. The cub is now at the age where she will leave mom and head off on her own. Another success notched up for Rockfig jr.
A tender moment as Rockfig Jnr grooms her cub. She is an amazing mom and in this image, her cub had just reached the age where it had to leave mom and head off on her own. Another success notched up for Rockfig Jnr.
Apart from her amazing eyes Rockfig jr can be identified by her unique spot pattern. Each leopard has its own pattern, much like a finger print. When it comes to her she has a single spot above her whisker lines on the left side. Small details you notice when you have fallen for a leopard.
Apart from her amazing eyes, Rockfig Jnr can be identified by her unique spot pattern. Each leopard has its own pattern, much like a finger print. When it comes to her – she has a single spot above her whisker lines on the left side. Small details you notice when you have fallen for a leopard.
At around 12 years of age Rockfig jr still looks like she is in the prime of her life and I hope that I still have many years of sightings with her. After recently sending her youngster off on its own, it shouldn’t be too long before she is a mom again and has another litter of cubs. As it stands Rockfig jr will continue to grace us with her presence for a long time to come.
At around 12 years of age, Rockfig Jnr is in the prime of her life and I hope that I still have many years of sightings with her. After recently sending her youngster off on its own, it shouldn’t be too long before she is a mom again and has another litter of cubs. As it stands, Rockfig Jnr will continue to grace us with her presence for a long time to come.
Africa Geographic Travel
Umlani Bushcamp

Umlani Bushcamp is located in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, which shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. This is true Big 5 territory and guests have an opportunity to see lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino on safe, expertly guided game drives and bush walks.