Paul and Sheryl Freund are luck to have had some increadible leopard encounters. These are no exception:
Most animals were looking for water on a daily basis due to the November heat, and that included leopards. Even though leopards are able to survive some time without water, they will always appreciate a drink, so they regularly visit our waterholes, preferably at dusk or at night. As the popular Mogorosi waterhole had been closed to let overgrazed vegetation in the vicinity recover, Tholo dam attracted a large number of animals and we spent several evenings in the hide. It hardly ever got boring with numerous impalas, wildebeest, zebras, duikers, giraffes, elephants and elands showing up. Hyenas, spotted and brown, jackals and our lone wild dog female, as well as the main pack visited too.
However, the elusive leopards are best seen sitting at a waterhole and that was what we were hoping for. Many individuals are shy and get easily disturbed. This time we were lucky enough to be either camouflaged in a hide or we encountered the right individuals, the ones that tolerate cars.
Sitting in Tholo hide on the very first night, this large male leopard appeared just before dark. He looked at us and calmly drank just meters away before resuming his territorial patrol.
On another occasion, we had to wait until after dark, when this cat—it looked like a female—arrived. Again viewing from the hide at eye level and just a few meters away. It was amazing!
To complete our leopard encounters one night we came across a juvenile at Cabbage Dam. This was after the first rains and lots of water pools were filling up around the reserve. We had been sitting for several hours and the wait had been rather uneventful. Just when we decided to return home the young cat appeared on the other side of the dam. It went down to the water for a quick drink. To our surprise it then walked around the dam and quite curiously approached our parked vehicle. Finally, it stood just meters away and looked at us, before slowly disappearing in the dark.
Photos: Paul and Cheryl Freund