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Africa’s Big 5 – Leopard

Africa’s famous ‘Big 5’ species are made up of lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and Cape buffalo, and the term came about during the colonial period to refer to the five animals that were considered the most difficult and dangerous to hunt. Now, seeing Africa’s ‘Big 5’ is one of the main goals for many photographic safari enthusiasts.

Leopard in Sabi Sands South Africa
Leopard in Kenya
Leopard family in Botswana

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Leopard in Namibia
Leopard in Tanzania
The leopard is the most elusive of Africa’s big cats. Perfectly at home in trees, their beautiful rosette-spotted coat makes them difficult to see in the dappled branches. While nature doesn’t offer any guarantees, an expert safari guide is your best bet to spot one of these gorgeous, nocturnal felines.

Read on to learn a few interesting leopard facts…

    • Leopards are the second largest of Africa’s cats. They are approximately half the size of a lion.
    • Male leopards can weigh up to 165 lbs, while females weigh up to 132 lbs.
    • Leopards often drag their prey up a tree – including animals that are nearly double their own weight! They aren’t picky eaters – carnivorous leopards eat everything from rodents and fish, to antelope and monkeys!
    • Leopards are quick – they can sprint at speeds over 35 mph!
    • Leopards are very agile – they can jump forward 20 feet and leap up to 10 feet straight up.
    • Leopards communicate vocally and by scent. Their ‘bark’ sounds like a saw cutting through rough wood.
    • A leopard’s gestation period is approximately 100 days, and the 2-3 cubs in each litter weigh just over one pound each at birth.
    • Leopards can hear five times more sounds than humans – even the ultrasonic squeaks made by mice.

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A few of favorite leopard haunts and sightings from AAC’s staff…

Kent – Sabi Sand in South Africa is one of the very best reserves for leopard sightings, and many great wildlife documentaries have been filmed here. There is a wide range of accommodation – something to suit everyone. South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is another great place – and it’s especially good for active travelers, as it is one of the best places for walking safaris on the continent.

Anisha – In Namibia, there’s a place where you can track leopards (and cheetah) on foot. A visit to Okonjima is different from a regular safari, but just as unforgettable!

Sara – At my recent visit to Ruaha in Tanzania, there was a leopard drinking out of the swimming pool at Jabali Ridge!

Diana – Private conservancies around Kenya’s Masai Mara can be good for leopard sightings because of the ability to go off road and take night drives, which is great for searching for leopard who become more active around & after dusk.

Susan – I’ve had incredible leopard sightings in Linyanti, Botswana!

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Photos contributed by AAC founder Kent Redding, AAC journey specialist Anisha, and the Quinn, Lounsberry and Herschler safaris with AAC.

Categories: Big 5, Botswana, Kenya, Masai Mara, Namibia, photographic safaris, South Africa, Tanzania, walking safari, wildlife, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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