South Africa’s Kruger National Park is renowned for having a stunning array of wildlife. But it is the “Big Five” that most visitors hope to see on their visit. The “Big Five” is a term originally used by hunters in reference to 5 of Africa’s most dangerous animals to hunt: The Leopard, The Lion, The Elephant, The White Rhino, and The Buffalo.
There are few places in the world where one has the opportunity to see all of these in their natural and wild habitat.
For of the “Big Five” are usually easy to spot in Kruger. Elephants and Rhinos are huge, and make them easy to spot. The Buffalos are often in a herd, making them again easy to see. Even Lions tend to be in a group, lazily resting in the daytime, to conserve energy for their evening hunt. The leopard though, is something else.
Known to be Africa’s most efficient hunter, the Leopard is a solitary animal that usually hunts at night. Weighing between 100 and 200lbs, it has been known to pull-up a full-sized Impala up a tree.
Our wonderfully knowledgeable safari guide (Debbie) from Outlook Lodge and Safaris explained the above and more to us about Kruger’s Leopards. She even found us a Leopard Den where we got a quick glimpse at the mother’s tail. Alas, the den was too far away for a good photo—and for our own protection, as well as Kruger’s wildlife, nobody is allowed to exit a vehicle while on safari.
A couple of days later, Bella and I picked up our car compliments of Budget Car Rentals South Africa at Kruger Airport, only a skip away from the park. We b-lined for the Numbi Gate to the park, and began our self-drive safari adventure.
We quickly spotted Rhinos, Impalas, Buffalo, Wild Dogs, Zebras, Elephants, Giraffs and more. But it was the morning after, as we drove along the S36 dirt road near Lugmag that the climax to our photo safari came. We were putting along, eyes peeled to our respective sides of the road , when suddenly a Leopard ambled non-chalantly onto the road in front of us!
“Love! It’s a Leopard!!!” I exclaimed. (Little did we know it was actually a Cheetah)
We fumbled with our cameras and watched it walk in front of us, completely aware of our presence, yet unperturbed by it. Understandable, as when you’re at the top of the food chain, not much worries you.
For over 100 meters, the feline stayed in front of us, periodically glancing back at us. At one point, it was only a few meters away from us. Bella’s camera snapped photo after photo while I figured out how to drive standard with my left hand while simultaneously taking photos.
A moment later, the cheetah stopped one last time to look at Bella before disappearing into the tall grass. At the time we thought it was a leopard, but after doing some research, we believe it was a Cheetah.
Does it make our encounter any less special? No! We will indeed be talking of that day for a long time to come!
Gear: Bella had her Kenko Polarising filter on her lens, removing the sun’s glare on the photo and creating a crystal clear image.
South Africa Adventure Sponsored by: Outlook Safaris, Budget Car Rentals South Africa, LowePro Canada, Daymen Canada
You can watch the fastest animal in the world..in slow motion here! It’s spectacular to watch!