My favourite sighting of 2020

My favourite sighting of 2020 came during our last day in Ndutu where I was hosting our Best of Serengeti safari.

We had just found a den site where a Lioness was hiding her cubs, who could not have been older than a day or two. To ensure that the area doesn’t get a lot of traffic, we kept our distance from the cubs, hoping that the lioness would return to the den.  As our colleagues were making their way towards us, the spotted a female Leopard only a few hundred meters from where we were.

We decided to join them at the Leopard sighting, as the visual on the little cubs were not great, and we also wanted to give them some distance so neither mom or the cubs get stressed out.

My favorite sighting of 2020
My favourite sighting of 2020

It proved to be the best decision that we could possibly have made as this Leopard gave us an incredible show, climbing up and down trees, vocalizing and posing perfectly time and time again.  In fact it is hard to think of a better Leopard sighting that I personally have had ever.

We ended up spending the most part of the day with this female Leopard, occasionally losing visual of her as she moved through the tall vegetation, only to find her in another tree in the distance.

It will most certainly be a sighting that I will not forget anytime soon and without a doubt my favourite sighting of 2020.

Till next time.

Johan van Zyl

2 thoughts on “My favourite sighting of 2020

  1. Tim Allen-Rowlandson


    This highlights the dilemma all we photographers face – do I stick with the sighting I have or move to another ?? !! I recall Gerry speaking about this on at least once of his podcasts too ! I guess the fact that you did not want to draw too much attention to the lion den, and that your colleagues were very close by and had a visual on the leopard made the decision that much easier – a case of the grass actually being that much greener on the other side ! And a good decision it was ! It always helps when you can spend a good period of time with the same leopard, so that it focuses on itself rather than you, and being able to drive off-road (as you can at Ndutu) is an added benefit too. These are a beautiful sequence of images Johan – very varied poses, activities and backgrounds all from the same leopard on the same day – how obliging is that !! I can understand why this would be your favourite sighting of 2020. I wonder why the female was so active ? I have seen leopards acting in this way when looking for a cub that has gone walkabouts and is either ignoring its mother’s calls or is out of range. Or perhaps she is in estrus. Whatever the reason, you have some wonderful, diverse shots and I can only imagine how delighted your guests were with how the day played out, and what they experienced and captured. Forget 2020 (that is another story !) – this will probably rank as favourite sighting ever for some who were fortunate enough to be with you. Awesome !

    • Johan Van Zyl

      Thank you so much for the kind words Tim. The reasons you mention are spot on, we didn’t want to attract too much attention to the little cubs and the chances of getting a good glimpse at them was quite low. The potential of having mom move them did cross my mind, but the fact that we had her earlier that morning and that she was on the hunt and moving further away from the cubs meant that we probably weren’t going to see it that day. We also made sure that the visual on the Leopard was a good one which also contributed to the decision. It’s not always easy, but you have to weigh up what your surroundings are like with your current sighting and the potential that could arise from the sighting. We don’t always get it right, but that’s what makes it so rewarding when it does come together. Thanks again for your kind feedback and support. Johan

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