The undoubted highlight of the first day’s drive was finding a young female leopard known as the Marula
female. She operates around the Umlani area and although only approximately 3-4 years old, has matured into a beautiful leopard. She still has a little filling out to do but her young age is manifested in a beautiful pelt and relaxed, confident nature. Robert, our tracker, picked up the tracks as we crossed a dry riverbed close to the camp. We followed the tracks up the drainage line with the guests in tow until our progress was halted by a pair of white rhino. We chose to stay and watch these prehistoric creatures from a safe distance whilst Robert disappeared into the bush hot on the heels of his target.
After we had spent some time with the rhino, our ranger, Shaddy, led us back to the vehicle and soon after we received a call from Robert that he had located the leopard. After picking up Robert, we spent some quality time with the beautiful female watching her attempting to hunt both kudu and impala but unfortunately for her, her quarry’s eyes we equal to her stealthy approaches, and we left her as she probed deeper into the bush in search of a hearty meal.
The following morning, we headed up to the northern part of the reserve to see a young male leopard called Shiviti. Shiviti is approximately 4 years old but is by no means lacking in maturity.
During the evening it seemed that he was skillful enough to catch a female impala and by the time we arrived at the sighting, he had devoured plenty of his prey. The kill had not been hoisted into the safety of a tree at this point and had been stashed in some thick vegetation which meant that visibility was limited at times. However, after eating his fill, we followed him for some time as he sought the shade of a dry riverbed for some rest. His relaxed nature afforded us a wonderful sighting of this young leopard
and we look forward to following his progress as he continues to mature into a formidable hunter.
The Timbavati saved the best till last however and our final leopard sighting of the trip was a magical experience. A mature female of about 8 years, known as Ntombi was found in the west of the reserve on our penultimate drive. She is a hugely successful leopard and is currently tending to her 3 juvenile cubs.
They are about 9-10 months old now and for a leopardess to get 3 cubs to that age in a single litter is almost unheard of. Unfortunately she had left the cubs unattended by the time we arrived and
due to the conservation ethic adopted by reserves, they were called negative loc so as to not stress the youngsters without the calming influence of their mother being present. However, we were
afforded a wonderful hour with Ntombi as she harassed a herd of impala before leaping effortlessly into a nearby marula tree. She spent the next 30 minutes or so grooming herself and enjoying the view, posing for us as we eagerly snapped photos from below her.
The Leopard ID Project is, of course, there to document leopard activity for research purposes but when an opportunity for a special sighting comes along, we are happy to accept it!
During our stay in the Timbavati, a pack of 7 wild dogs were found on the reserve and although the sun had set by the time we reached them, we watched the little dynamos trotting through the undergrowth in search of another meal. The failing light was wonderfully atmospheric but rendered it almost impossible to get any photos of the sighting, but just to see these critically endangered carnivores was a real treat.
On the last night, the lodge organized the Leopard ID Project a stunning dinner in the riverbed in front of
the lodge. The setting was lit up by lanterns, and a fire pit was on hand to keep the cold at bay as we enjoyed the wonderful evening under the African sky. After dinner, a couple of the more adventurous members of the group chose to sleep out in Umlani’s tree house high above a water hole a couple of kilometers from camp. Sleeping out in the bush is a magical experience and we drifted into
sleep to the sounds of lion, leopard, hyena, elephant and jackal to name just a few. What a great way to end a great trip!
The Leopard ID Project would like to thank Umlani for their hospitality and most importantly our guests:
Peter, Kevin, Robert and Tish Taylor and Amanda Ruddy from African Paws Conservation. The Leopard ID Project cannot work without the support of the public and like-minded conservation enthusiasts such as these. Their passion and love for the bush made for a great trip and will go a long way into helping the plight of one of Africa’s most beautiful inhabitants. Thank you once again for taking the time to join and help us; and for your positive attitude and great sense of humour. Welcome to the Leopard ID
Project family and we look forward to welcoming you back in the future!