Leopard & Lion Sightings at Chada Katavi Tented Camp

Natural World Safaris

21 Jun 2013

Amazing lion sightings in Tanzania

It was mid-morning, around 9am when we got a radio call explaining that there had been a brief leopard sighing nearby. At this point, we were in the middle of an informative guided game walk which started from our wonderful fly camp on the edge of the Katavi Plains.

Leopards are renowned for being very elusive and secretive, and therefore I needed no persuasion. We called for our vehicle to pick us up and off we drove. Less than 1km later, one of the rangers spotted a motionless impala hanging from a thick branch of a tree to our right, it's insides had been partly removed, partly hanging from the dead body. Leopards are known to remove the insides of their kill so to make the body lighter and easier to carry up the tree, hiding it from the hyenas. But where was the leopard. It had to be near. This was a good meal, surely the leopard would not go far?

We searched through our binoculars and drove slowly around the tree. Nothing. Could the leopard be in the thick undergrowth around the base of the tree? We switched off the engine and from the vehicle we waited in silence. It was important to be silent. The leopard had to be very near, but it had to think that we had either gone or understand that we posed no threat. We waited. Until, one of the rangers spotted it amongst the undergrowth. Sure enough, the leopard was there hiding. An hour past, still very little movement. Looking through the binoculars, it only moved deeper into the undergrowth.

Finally, we decided that it was only fair to drive on. Maybe we were preventing the leopard from climbing back up the tree. With this in mind, we would return a bit later. In the meantime, we drove a further 1km to an area where there was a buffalo kill, made by a pride of six lions only 12hrs earlier which was amazingly witnessed by some of the staff while setting up the fly camp. True enough, the lions and the dead buffalo were still there and surprisingly they had not yet eaten much of their prize. Interestingly, one of the lionesses was being particularly bothered by the flies, all around her eyes. To better the situation, she lazily got up and slowly walked past us and climbed a small and surprisingly flimsy tree to shade herself against the flies. There are only a few areas in Africa where this kind of behaviour takes place, I was surprised to see it happen in Katavi National Park.

After a short while, we decided to drive back to where the leopard was to see if it had now climbed up the tree to its kill. Sure enough, it had but as we approached it threatened to jump back down into the thick undergrowth. With this in mind, we kept our distance and watched. It was very interesting to see the leopard keeping an eye on us as we watched it! A kind of stakeout position, who would draw first!

Finally, we thought it only fair to move on and head back to the camp. I was happy. We really had to work hard to get any real sighting of the leopard, it just goes to show how amazingly shy and elusive they are, making them a great predator. Suddenly, a shout from the back of the vehicle voiced "leopard". One of the rangers had spotted one, but this time it was a very close sighting in a sausage tree just to the right of us. Amazing. In all my years of game driving, this was for sure my closet ever leopard sighting, in fact this was probably only my third ever sighting of a leopard in the wild.

For me, the leopard (including the snow leopard) as well as the cheetah are the most beautiful of all the cats. Once again, just as the previous leopard, it appeared to be stalking us. Were we a predator, were we a threat? It was another eyeball to eyeball stakeout over the thick branch! Amazingly, this leopard seemed so concerned that it slowly peered below the thick branch to get a view of us from a slightly different angle hoping that we wouldn't notice. Stunning behaviour, we were both staring at each other. Sharing the same moment. Something that I will never forget.

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