I have just finished an incredible journey through Botswana’s Okavango Delta to visit and familiarize myself with one of Natural Habitat’s greatest destinations. We saw leopards at all of the remote fly-in camps we visited, but the most memorable occurred at Chitabe, in the eastern delta. We had just landed in a Cessna 206 onto a dirt strip in the wilderness and were driving the sandy roads to the lodge in the late afternoon when the driver heard something on the radio. A little while later he abruptly swerved into the thick brush following the tracks of another land cruiser. After 10 minutes of bouncing and scraping through the road-less bush we came upon the vehicle, and an enormous male leopard sitting at the edge of thicket. He was the biggest leopard I had ever seen, and there was something about the look in his eyes- he seemed possessed.
Pretty soon we knew why. He was in the company of a very, very eager estrus female leopard. We spent the next hour and a half witnessing something very few people have seen- mating, and lots of it. The female was in her first year of sexual maturity, and was dwarfed by the massive bulk of the male, but she wasn’t a bit intimidated. She approached the male, and rubbed her tail flirtatiously in his face until he mounted her. Copulation was very brief, and ended with the male biting the back of her head and growling as she emitted a strange yowl. The most amazing aspect of this behavior was that they repeated it every 5 to 10 minutes! This would go on non-stop for 2-3 days! Quite impressive. Only a video does this kind of behavior justice. Keep in mind that I never replay a scene in the video- they are all different copulations.
I wanted to thank the original guide who found these leopards, and let our driver know the location so that we, too, could experience this. That night we met Brooks Kamanakao, the legendary guide NHA handpicked to guide Botswana Expeditions, whose skills were well demonstrated as he was the one who had tracked the cats through a half-mile of thick brush after noticing a set of tracks on one of the sandy trails. What Amazing skills! Click here to read Brooks’ Bio.
The next morning our guide spied another female leopard sleeping on a branch, with an impala carcass hanging below her. We were able to get some incredible shots as she fed on her prize right above us!
A few days later, we flew up to the Linyanti Region and stayed at King’s Pool and Duma Tau camps. It was at Duma Tau where we found the famous Duma Tau male leopard, sitting in one of his favorite trees, with the remains of a young warthog that he had killed the previous night.
I cant believe the number, and quality of leopard sightings on our trip, as leopards are one of the most elusive animals in Africa. This is what happens in Botswana, which is home to some of the best wildlife and wildllife guides on Earth. The only downside is that it can spoil you forever….