Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
Whereas it is true that leopards are by no means restricted to national parks and game reserves, if there’s one place definitely worth visiting if you love the animal and would like to spot one it would have to be Sabi Sands. The game reserve is a jewel when it comes to quality viewing, and offers reliable opportunities to see this stunning cat in its natural habitat.
In fact, the area is home to some of the highest leopard densities in Africa, and is renowned for its decidedly skilled trackers who can read the signs of the wild like no other.
The most ideal Sabi Sands spot is known as Londolozi. Londolozi lodges are absolutely exquisite, and over the years the leopards have become habituated to vehicles in this piece of wildlife paradise. They are very relaxed and can be approached from very close range.
South Luangwa Valley, Zambia
Out of all the national parks and game reserves I have ever visited, it is by far THE place where I’ve been most rewarded with leopard sightings. The setting is breathtaking, and the riverine area allows impressive game viewing not only for leopards but also for incredibly rich African wildlife in general.
South Luangwa National Park is recognized for its night drives. Since most big cats are active during the night, the park offers the best chances to view leopards after dark.
On one occasion, I was able to spot two leopards in a single day (extremely rare, trust me). One during an early game drive where I spotted a female lying beside a waterhole, and the second at night, thanks to our tracker’s spotlight. An unforgettable encounter!
Believe it or not, but at first the animal was almost 200 meters away from our 4×4! Thankfully, the ranger noticed it because leopard eyes, he said, shine differently. The cat was heading in our direction, so we stopped the engine and waited. After about ten minutes of silent patience, the animal calmly leaped over the road right in front of the car. It then sniffed a bush or two, briefly marked its territory, and ventured off in the thickets! A M A Z I N G! 🙂
The Okavango Delta, Botswana
The Okavango Delta offers ideal leopard habitat. The most famous area lies in the Moremi Game Reserve, around Mombo Camp to be exact. This magnificent setting has starred a few famous animal documentaries, including the “Eye of the Leopard” filmed by Dereck and Beverly Joubert.
Masai Mara Reserve, Kenya
Another fabulous destination for leopard lovers, and a local favorite for some of BBC’s “Big Cat Diary” episodes. The most suitable area is along the Talek River, near Mara Intrepids Tented Camp. Game viewing is great all year round here, though your chances of seeing African leopards might be even greater during the Great Wildebeest Migration (between mid August and early November).
Serengeti National Park, Seronera Area
The park is not only world-renowned for its “Endless Plains”; it is as well for its leopard sightings that are almost spotted on a daily basis. Seronera’s only downturn is its overcrowding, making it less pleasant when it comes to the quality of game viewing. The place actually reminds me of Nairobi National Park, where it is not uncommon to find over 20 vehicles besides an animal of interest. It becomes easier to find the animals in this way, but is way less exciting!