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Africa Geographic Travel

It has now been six months since we started working to familiarise a female leopard and her three cubs with game drive vehicles in the Marakele National Park. All three cubs are still alive and doing well – their mother has done a fantastic job in rearing, feeding and protecting them.

leopard-cub-in-tree

I have been fortunate to have spent a great deal of time with them and have watched the cubs grow and develop unique personalities. The female used a handful of den sites and the cubs would frequently be hidden in separate hiding places often several hundred metres apart from one another. I can only assume this was a protection technique on the mother’s part.

The cubs are now estimated to be around eight months old and their mother works hard to keep them fed as they are not quite old enough yet to hunt animals of a significant size.

leopard-cub

One morning I was watching one of the cubs in a large camel thorn tree. One of the young males was sleeping on one of the main branches. A male lion roared close by and the little leopard lifted his head and I froze.

leopard-cub-resting leopard-in-a-tree

Within no time, the lion was in sight beneath the camel thorn! I held my breath. The young leopard lay motionless watching the larger cat walk beneath. As the lion approached another camel thorn tree, two leopards shot up it. It was the mother and the other young male. But where was the female cub?

lion-walking

I dared not move my car as I did not want to influence the behaviour of any of the cats. After a lengthy ten minutes the lion moved on and could be heard roaring further away. Down the road the little female popped out of an old aardvark burrow. Phew!

lion-looking-at-leopard

The young male in the tree near me grew more confident with each distant roar of the lion and began to walk across the branches towards me.

leopard-tree

He then proceeded to lie on a branch directly above my cruiser and stare down at me.

leopard-in-tree leopard-cub-watching

As my camera flashed with a low battery warning, I realised that sometimes it is important just to appreciate the moment. This was one of those moments. I pushed my seat back and stared up at the young sleeping prince.

Africa Geographic Travel
Michelle Sole

Michelle Sole is a safari and polar guide, wildlife photographer and blogger. As a child, Michelle always had a love and respect for nature, animals and the outdoors. She competed for Great Britain as an alpine ski racer for ten years, chasing winters around the world. On a family holiday to Africa in 2008, Michelle fell in love with elephants. In 2011 she moved to South Africa where she completed her studies to become a field guide and worked for five and a half years in the Waterberg Biosphere in South Africa. In 2017 Michelle spent a year backpacking around the globe, travelling from one national park to another. At the end of the year she spent three months guiding in Antarctica. She now divides her time between the African sun and the Antarctic ice, sharing with guests her passion for whales, birds and photography. Her thrill for adventure, the outdoors and adrenaline are at the core of her photography and writing. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram.