The Super Cats of Etosha [part 2]: A Ghost in the Dark
I have to confess, that we're facing a dilemma with this spotted cat. There is very little known about the life of leopards in Etosha, which is owned to the facts that leopards are very secretive animals, are almost exclusively creatures of the night and on top of this are true masters of camouflage in the African bush.
What's undisputed, however, is the fact that the leopard, like the lion, is a night hunter. It uses the dark as an ally to prowl for prey animals, which are typically impala or springbok in Etosha. It cleverly uses long grass, bushes or trees to silently stalk up to its unsuspecting prey. Lacking great speed to outrun these swift antelopes, it must get up close before it launches a sudden and powerful attack, which is often successful.
Unfortunately, these life and death dramas as well as many other facets of a leopard's life in Etosha are happening almost always out of sight for us human observers.
Before you despair and bury your dreams of meeting these beautiful predators face-to-face in Etosha's wilderness, we have good news: there is a slim chance for your personal encounter with Mr. Spotted.
Firstly, there are a few opportunities for glimpses into Etosha's night-life for you. For one, each of Etosha's tourist camps has a flood-lit waterhole that's accessible to the Park's wildlife - on the one side (literally!) - and to us human visitors, watching from the other side. They are open 24/7, 365 days and nights a year ... in short: always!
So if you want to make your dreams come true, take the time to visit these waterholes after dark. Sit for a few hours with your binoculars, camera and ... hell, yes, your wine or beer ... and you'll stand a chance to witness a leopard silently move to the water's edge, calmly lessen its thirst and then swiftly walk off and disappear like a ghost in the dark.
Oh, by the way: your odds to witness this special performance are best between midnight and sunrise, as leopards like it quiet.
Your other golden opportunity to investigate the nightly whereabouts of Miss Leopard is on a nightly game drive. Organized and offered by NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) you can book a seat on open safari vehicles at the tourist office of each camp. Leopard sightings are quite common on these nightly tours, especially in the bush savanna around Halali and Namutoni.
And you've got other chances as well. If you're not a night person, but rather an early bird, you might want to head for a bush waterhole in the Park's East first thing in the morning. These spotted cats don't mind a refreshing drink during the cool hours of the day and might even try for a kill at a heavily frequented waterhole.
Lastly, if you are very lucky you might experience the seemingly impossible: a leopard walking past you in full daylight, cool, unworried and in all its beauty. Odds are quite slim, but there's always the possibility of such extraordinary moments in Etosha's grand wilderness.
We hope you've enjoyed our briefing about Etosha's leopards and wish you the best of luck for great leopard sightings next time you're in Etosha.
If you're keen to also learn more about the speediest of the wild cats, the graceful cheetah, read on in part 3 of our 'Super Cats Of Etosha' series.
Keep well & stay wild :-). With our best wilderness wishes,
Claudia & Wynand
PS: Please do write back to us about your great 'Super Cat' sightings in Etosha, we're always keen to hear from you.
Claudia & Wynand du Plessis | Namibia nature photographers | www.photos-namibia.com