The leopard is sleeping in the long dry grass, content with his world, perhaps dreaming of successful hunts. Surely he wouldn’t be dreaming of unsuccessful hunts, would he? He would have to have a pretty poor self-image if he did that.
And why would this leopard have a poor self image? Just look at him! He’s a hunk! Look at those powerful neck and shoulder muscles, the very muscles that enable him to take his prey high into a tree to keep from losing his meal to fearsome lions or pesky hyenas. His prey that can weigh as much as one and a half times as much as he does, yet up the tree trunk it goes in the leopard’s strong jaws.
Everything about him is built for power. Not huge and mighty like a lion, nor sleek and streamlined like the fast cheetah, he is brute strength and cunning and he hunts alone.
His green eyes see everything, when he’s awake, that is. Which he soon will be, because a paparazzi vehicle arrives and parks nearby. They are about as pesky as the hyenas, with their infernal clicking of rapid-fire shutters releasing apertures and imprinting images for eternity.
But the paparazzi have their purpose, Leopard knows, and he will soon put that purpose into effect.
Leopard really doesn’t want the paparazzi to know he’s awake. Then, he would have to do his leopard thing and he would much rather sleep off his recent meal.
But, the paparazzi won’t let him return to his nap until they see some action, so he rises and yawns. No point in rushing into this.
The paparazzi are whispering about a warthog family a short distance away. The pigs are oblivious to the leopard, and that all works to his advantage.
Oh, no, not those speedy little warthogs, he thinks. But cats are cats and leopard is a cat and what cat can avoid chasing movement. Besides, prey is prey.
He crosses behind the paparazzi vehicle, working his way slowly towards the warthogs.
Papa Warthog becomes far too interested in propagating his species with Mama Warthog, and the leopard uses their diverted attention to get even closer. He keeps the paparazzi vehicle between him and the little piggies, using it as a blind.
Now the warthogs are back to eating grass. Leopard has made his way into brush about 30 feet from them without being observed.
The Sabi Sands area, named for the two rivers near here, is known for its leopard population. This is where to go to photograph leopards.
During our four days here, we saw a female with daughter, a young male, an adult male, a single female, and another single female.
Meanwhile, back at the leopard-warthog drama, there never is a chase, never a kill. The leopard watched, but never made a move.
For all we know, he went back to sleep.
This is a young female we found sleeping right beside the trail.
A mother and daughter along the Sand River.