Leopards look good in black and white too

An audience with a leopard

Ever since I saw my first leopard, standing with her two cubs on a sandbar in the middle of a river in Samburu National Park in Kenya, it has been the animal I most want to see on safari. Long ago, I learnt that leopard sightings are on their terms. They are so well camouflaged that they can be invisible, even when they are only metres away, and will only show themselves if they want to be seen.

Quarantine surveys his territory

Quarantine surveys his territory

Sabi Sands in South Africa has a reputation for providing close encounters with this magnificent beast. This was one of the reasons I wanted to visit the reserve.

On guard duty

On guard duty

Right from our first game drive, Sabi didn’t disappoint. I got closer to leopards than I have ever been in my life. Not even in zoos do you get within touching distance.

Checking us out

Checking us out

Nothing, however, had prepared me for my encounter with Quarantine, a 3-year-old male with his own Facebook page. He granted Mrs Footprints and me a one-hour-long audience with him at the end of March.

Such a poser!

Such a poser!

We were on our first game drive with Cheetah Plains guide, Andrew Khosa, when he told us that he was taking us to a sighting of a leopard in a tree. Unfortunately Quarantine had descended from that tree by the time we reached him.

Posing on the road

Posing on the road

We stopped as soon as we saw him, as he was walking slowly towards us. He paused in front of the Land Cruiser to take a good look at us before moving into thick bush. We thought that was it. It was a typical leopard encounter; just long enough to grab a few shots before the cat disappears.

Just checking another leopard hasn't invaded his territory

Just checking another leopard hasn’t invaded his territory

A short time later, Andrew told us that he’d heard that Quarantine had emerged from the bush, so we went to find him again.

A spine-tingling look

A spine-tingling look

He was still walking slowly through his territory when we caught up with him. Clearly, he was looking for another tree to climb. When he found a suitable one he climbed it in a couple of bounds.

Will this one do?

Will this one do?

Andrew was able to position us directly beneath the tree so that we had a clear view and could get good photos.

We stopped directly below him

We stopped directly below him

As we watched, Quarantine surveyed his territory. It was hard to tell whether he was looking for his next meal or just checking that there weren’t any other leopards invading his territory. Either way, he was happy to stay there until after our time with him was up.

Looking for trouble?

Looking for trouble?

I love photographing leopards. I think they are particularly photogenic and work well in black and white too. Quarantine was the perfect model, adopting a range of poses including looking straight into my lens – a spine-tingling moment.

Having a leopard look straight down your lens is electrifying

Having a leopard look straight down your lens is electrifying

Thank you, Quarantine, for allowing us into your presence. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Looking for his next meal?

Looking for his next meal?

 

Lord of all he surveys

Lord of all he surveys

 

 

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