The 5 Best Places to See a Leopard in Africa
Leopards are second only to lions in the Big Cat hierarchy but unlike lions, they live a largely solitary life and hunt alone. They do not have the turn of pace of the cheetah, or the team work or pride power of the lion, they are specialist ambush hunters, most alike in that sense to tigers.
You will therefore need to be alert to other signs of their presence including alarm calls from other animals, baboons especially from their advantage points in trees. Plains game such as impala and springbok also give distinctive alarms calls and will instantly all look in the same direction.
Also don’t just look on the ground as leopards often climb trees for safety during the day and will take their prey up trees to get it away from other predators. So scan the larger trees …….you never know what you may find!!
But where’s the best places to give the safari visitor a chance of seeing them?
Zambia – the renowned South Luangwa Valley in central Zambia, linked with Lusaka by scheduled aircraft, has one of the highest concentrations of leopard in Africa due to the diverse and numerous prey and the excellent cover provided by the woodland. Leopards can often be seen near permanent water sources in the dry season.
The camps to stay at include those run by Robin Pope Safaris, arguably the Luangwa’s best lodge operator. Norman Carr also though have some superbly located camps including an incredible overnight fly camp.
Botswana – the region north-east of the Okavango Delta called the Linyanti, which abuts the Chobe National Park, provides ideal cover for leopards with thick bush, and heavily wooded areas, in which to rest and hunt. The Linyanti River and Savute Channel provides the water source. The region though is also home to lion and packs of wild dog, both of which are more than a match for a solitary leopard.
The camps to stay at to have a chance of seeing one include Duma Tau.
Tanzania – the great herds that move annually, between the Savannah grassland of the Serengeti in northern Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya, in search of new grazing are followed by all species of predator, including leopards. The leopards though do not hunt on the open plains, which would put them into conflict with lion and hyena but instead set up ambushes in the woodlands and amongst the ‘kopjes’ to await the arrival of their prey.
There are some superb semi-mobile camps and permanent lodges, the former of which move into the predicated path of the migration and offer superb levels of comfort in remote areas of this part of Tanzania.
Namibia – just a few hours’ drive north of Windhoek is a magical family owned lodge called Okonjima. It’s also home to the Africat Foundation, a charity dedicated to the conservation of the Big Cats, (cheetah and leopard especially), principally now through the education of future farming generations. The lodge provides a range of accommodation to suit all budgets and is an excellent place to spend at least two nights on your way to or from the Etosha National Park.
Malawi – a ‘hidden’ landlocked gem of a country in central Africa, Malawi offers much to it visitors and is arguably one of the most diverse of all the safari destinations in Africa.
The Majete Game Reserve is now home to the fabled ‘Big Five’ with flights via Johannesburg into Blantyre. Robin Pope has a superb new lodge called Mkulumadzi where a three night stay will be time well spent.
For a less safari feel of camp, head north to the Nyika Plateau (within the Nyika National Park), an area of rolling grassland with deep valleys and pockets of miombo woodland. The pace of life here is gentle and guests can roam through the park on horse-back or with a trained local guide. Sightings of leopard are increasing with a lack of other predators in the park.
Central African Wilderness Safaris operate a laid back lodge called Chelinda, an excellent base to explore the region.