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The leopards of Kilimatonge in Tanzania

Written by: David Liebst

I recently had the good fortune to go on a safari in Ruaha National Park with Authentic Tanzania. I just love the Ruaha. The air always smells like rain and the granite rocks that are so prevalent in this park. The topography is composed of rolling granite hills covered with ancient boulders and enormous baobab trees that look like skeletal hands made of fat white bones. The hills float in a sea of grass that changes colour with the seasons, all the while keeping step with the wind in its timeless dance of to and fro. It is beautiful. 

leopard-relaxing-tree

Leopard relaxing in Ruaha ©Sven Liebchen

The park is abundant with wildlife. Elephant, really big elephant, live here and can be found in huge herds. Its not long before we are greeted by the first residents, so we obediently stop to admire them as they slowly rumble through the shrub in the aware, yet dismissive way that elephants have. You know they are watching you, but are trying hard not to show it.

And if you are looking for big cats, then Ruaha is the place to be. If you are looking for leopard then come ye to the mountain in the Ruaha they call Kilimatonge. Kilimatonge is just full of leopards. Guides here regularly speak of seeing 6-7 separate leopard sightings in a single game drive along this hill.

kilimatonge-leopard-sunrise

Leopard at Kilimatonge ©David Liebst

It becomes a type of safari decadence when you can start to think of something as hard to see as a leopard in terms of how many per game drive you see. For me I have an image of leopards in my mind that seems not to fit with what they actually look like. Like they should somehow be bigger. They are amazing. I saw the fellow above before breakfast. He was walking up to a female who was sitting just behind the rock on the right eating a hyrax she had just killed.

leopard-in-sausage-tree

Leopard in a sausage tree ©Sven Liebchen

Rock hyrax are one of the main reasons leopards are so abundant on the Kilimatonge hill. Like fleas on a slumbering giant, the rock hyrax are everywhere, scurrying across the surface of the mountain. They are great for sighting leopards as they let out a very distinctive sound when they spot one, all you need to do is wait.

rock-hyrax

Rock hyrax in Ruaha ©David Liebst

Leopard can live happily on hyrax and can also get enough moisture from the little creatures to stay up in the rocks and away from the threatening predators competing with them, like lion and hyena.

leopard-stalking

Leopard stalks across a causeway in Ruaha ©Sven Liebchen

Lions are also here too in abundance and in the dry are spotted on almost every single game drive. Ruaha is a good place to see a kill if you haven’t. Lions here will take the usual large game such as buffalo, but are also known to take giraffe and elephant!

lions-resting

Lions relaxing in Ruaha ©Sven Liebchen

lion-kill

Lions on kill in Ruaha ©Sven Liebchen

Ruaha is just amazing. Go and see for yourself, and while you’re there, keep your eyes open around the Kilimatonge hill!

Photos above by David Liebst, and Sven Liebchen of Authentic Tanzania Safaris, who operate the most exciting mobile camping trips in the old fly-camping tradition, more or less anywhere you want to go.

Adventure Camps

Adventure Camps has three fixed camps in the southern wilderness of Tanzania, as well as the only mobile safari and overland transfer operation in the area, who can take you where no-one else can go. We offer a genuine safari experience with few frills but rustic comfort.

  • You are just making me homesick for Ruaha! We’ve been twice and both times it was every bit as good as you describe. And yes, there are lots of leopards to be seen although somehow they always seem to thwart my efforts to get a decent photograph.
    Roll on my next visit.

    • Flo Montgomery

      Thanks Chris for the nice comment! You’d better come to Kilimatonge next safari to get the leopard shots!

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