Widely considered to be the most elusive of big cats (despite being the smallest of the big cat species), leopards draw animal-lovers and photographers to Africa in droves. Leopards are part of the illustrious Big 5 group, known for their unusual ability to climb trees and swim. Safari-goers flock to numerous reserves on the continent in the hopes of catching sight of a dappled, golden coat, but as always with Africa, it’s about where rather than who.
The best places to see leopards in...
Okonjima Nature Reserve
is a family-run 22,000ha private reserve that devotes the majority of its land to the AfriCat Foundation project. This project is dedicated to the rehabilitation of captive carnivores - particularly cheetah and leopard. The foundation allows and encourages cats to perfect their hunting skills with the hope of returning them to the wild.
If it's leopards you're after, then heading to the Greater Kruger Area
is the best option. While still wild, the leopards of Londolozi Private Game Reserve
have become habituated to the antics of humans, translating to guaranteed sightings and photo opportunities. Further north, the extensive gravel roads of Manyeleti Game Reserve
culminate into 200 kilometres of trails giving visitors excellent wildlife spotting opportunities — particularly of leopard regularly being seen in the reserve.
The Okavango Delta
is a superb environment for leopard thanks to the abundance of game, water sources, and all-round ideal habitat. However, they are more easily spotted on the outskirts of the Delta in the likes of Moremi Game Reserve
where extensive woodland is found and where they can hide unobserved from between the branches of numerous sausage trees.
Across the border from Kenya’s Maasai Mara, the predator population of the park naturally spills over into the Serengeti National Park
. Despite this, one of the best places to see leopard here is in the Ngorongoro Crater
. Located 1,800 metres above sea level in the Ngorongoro Highlands, the crater’s vegetation ranges from forest on one slope and grassland on the other, to a floor consisting largely of savannah renowned for leopard spotting.
South Luangwa National Park
is not only the birthplace of the walking safari but has earned another name as the ‘valley of the leopard’. While the park’s leopard population is known to come out and play after sundown, sightings of these graceful felines lounging on branches and stalking through grassland in the late afternoon are regularly reported.