South Luangwa is now internationally recognised as a prime destination for photographic safaris with its very high number of lions, elephants, buffalo, hippos and above all leopards.
It is estimated that there is one leopard for every 2km², which is higher than the leopard population of the Kruger National Park.
Here, the mysterious leopard is not so elusive. It can often be seen resting in the trees, stalking in the bushes or even drinking by a stream. It is not rare to see one, two or even three different leopards on one game drive.
Although some individuals may still be on the shy side, many are so comfortable with vehicles that they will walk right past them, sometimes using the car to hide from their prey, or will jump off their resting branch to roll in the dust in front of fast-clicking cameras.
Luke Cowan (the 16-year old son of the owners of Kafunta Safaris) and Izzy Defourny (Kafunta’s Reservations Manager) are among the fervent aficionados of the spotty cat and when on a game drive don’t miss an opportunity to hone their photographic skills with cooperating models.
At night leopards roam in complete silence, only occasionally interrupted by their remarkable rasping calls which can be heard from far away. We hear this call regularly in the thickets surrounding Kafunta River Lodge, but not too many people have had a chance to actually see a leopard roar. Just recently, Stephan Tuengler, of In Africa, was one of the few who have witnessed the display, and, in complete daylight too. Stephan was smart to videotape this for all of us to enjoy which you can see here.
The call, which sounds just like wood under a saw, comes from a vibrating voice box – the suspensorium – located at the top of the windpipe and suspended by cartilage. It is similar to lions, although the sound doesn’t always carry as far.
Being often harassed by lions and hyenas, leopards in South Luangwa usually hoist their prey into a tree, away from other scavengers. They are so strong that they can hoist a kill sometimes as heavy as their own body.
With such a concentration of this spectacular cat, it is no wonder that South Luangwa is the favoured destination for true safari experts and professional wildlife photographers such as Stephan.
Usually best seen from a game drive vehicle, it is not uncommon to also witness leopards while taking part on a bush walk, or even sometimes at sunset while sipping a gin and tonic in a comfy deck chair. Combining Kafunta River Lodge with remote Island Bush Camp (seasonal), is the finest way to experience South Luangwa’s extraordinary wilderness and maximise the chances to observe the Panthera Pardus.