by Kevin Dooley
I must say that I enjoy photographing leopards more than any other spices in Africa, probably because they can be such a challenge to locate and photograph. I often see more Elephants in one day on safari then I have seen of all the leopards in my lifetime. Leopards are tricky, silent, nocturnal, shy, and solitary, not to mention that they have amazing senses and they mostly do not like to be around people. As a safari guide and operator I am constantly asked if we will see leopards, I wish I could always say yes, however all I can say is that we will give it our absolute best. Yes, we do have some areas that have more prolific leopard populations, and I can just about guarantee we will find one, however it is never a guarantee. I have seen 11 different leopards over a weeks time, and in the exact same area I did not see a single one the following week. We normally see up to 3 leopards on an average 7 day safari, when we get knowledge of a leopard sighting we drop everything and off we go. If we are fortunate enough to find a leopard on a kill in a tree we can almost count on some good quality photography time. The leopard is one animal that you really need to concentrate on being quite and still, they frighten easy, and once they are gone, it can be very difficult to relocate them.
During our last safari season, over March and April, we were blessed with many leopard sightings. As a wildlife photographer I have learned that patience is the name of the game and this was no different over the last few months of African Safaris. We were lucky enough to spend a lot of time at both Mashatu Game Reserve and MalaMala Game Reserve. These amazing safari locations are known for big cats and they did not let us down. We managed to find five different leopards in the first three days while at Mashatu, and MalaMala consistently produced Leopards on almost every game drive. I am a big fan of Mashatu Private Game Reserve and the amazing staff at this world class African Safari Destination.