A Leopard Sighting of a Lifetime



Our last stop on the trip was to be a good one. Mombo Camp on Chief’s Island forms part of Moremi Game Reserve and lies in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Its reputation as arguably the best safari lodge in Africa precedes it and it has been on our list of places to visit for a very long time. Mombo Camp's location in one of the most fertile parts of Botswana means large congregations of herbivores are never far away. Along with this, it offers arguably the best predator-viewing on the continent, which is complimented by the lodge’s exceptionally luxurious accommodations.


We recorded the podcast after our last evening drive; the next day we were going to fly back home.

Above: Mombo Camp on Chief's Island. Photo: Wilderness Safaris


On the first afternoon, we came across a young male leopard of around two to two and a half years of age. The youngster had been sleeping in the shade of a bush and we were able to watch as he slowly got active, viewing the various different animals on the open floodplain around him.

Photo: © Hadley Pierce

His focus however was on a warthog burrow close by and we thought he might have seen a warthog disappear down the burrow earlier, in the hopes it would resurface. We did see some other warthogs approach the burrow and get quite close to the leopard, who patiently lurked and waited.

Photo: © Hadley Pierce

The young leopard, realising his chances at this burrow were quite slim started his evening patrol, investigating various other burrows in the area as he walked. At one point he stuck his whole upper body into a hole that was clearly occupied only to have a huge amount of dust and soil flung at his face from the resident warthog.

Photo: © Hadley Pierce

Moving on to yet another burrow that had a large adult warthog poking its head out, the leopard this time opted for the aerial approach as he climbed a nearby dead tree to observe the burrow from a safer distance and vantage point. We were astounded at the maturity of the leopard’s decision making, he took few risks, wasted little energy and knew when his chances of success were slim to none. As the sun went down and it got dark, we left him to his own devices.

Photo: © Hadley Pierce

The next day we were able to spend time with him again. This time, he was in the company of a female, who was quite shy. She showed us this as she slunk into the shelter of a thicket when our game viewer came a little to close.

Photo: © Hadley Pierce

Our guide Olly expertly kept his distance and allowed the leopard to relax and show herself again. In the afternoon we were able to watch as the pair mated numerous times. The female had really relaxed around the vehicle at this stage as her natural urge to procreate trumped any kind of fear. Hadley got some great shots of the pair mating. It was their first day mating and the regularity with which they went mated was quite incredible.

Photo: © Hadley Pierce

On top of this the young male had clearly not mated before and his inexperience showed as he regularly missed his target. It had been an incredibly hot day in the Delta and as the temperatures started to slowly drop in the late afternoon, the pair made their way into a more open area, giving us excellent viewing opportunities in the softer light.

Photo: © Hadley Pierce

They eventually went to a nearby waterhole for a drink, before they were disturbed by a pair of nearby hyenas, who thought they might find a few scraps of meat.

Photo: © Hadley Pierce

The leopards jumped onto a fallen over log to safety and even in this situation the female took the opportunity to seduce the male, and they attempted to haphazardly mate, though it was very awkward.

Photo: © Hadley Pierce

The hyenas were still in the area and though they weren’t really pursuing the leopards any more it was clear the cats were still a little on edge, the male was tired now and wanted to rest. He led the female to a massive nearby baobab tree and climbed straight into the canopy. Rather than just settling in for a nap, the female coaxed him to mate with her on one of the largest branches of the tree. We were in absolute awe of what we were witnessing, even our guide had to admit that in his twenty years of guiding in the Delta he had never seen leopards mating in a baobab before.

Photo: © Hadley Pierce

They stayed in the tree until it was almost fully dark, mating several more times. Before climbing out of the tree the male perched conspicuously, his silhouette outlined by the last bit of light on the horizon. He eventually clambered down and we drove back to the lodge, our last evening drive in Botswana complete.


Photo: © Hadley Pierce