leopards in action

The cold bite of winter is starting to grip the bush as the first cold front passes through. With all the guests making their way to the vehicle for morning safari, Solly, my tracker, hears a noise in the distance. It’s the unmistakeable noise of leopards mating and they are right by Little Bush Camp. I hurry the guests into the vehicle, everyone tucking their blankets around them to keep warm and we head in the direction of the noise.

leopard while on safari game drive at Sabi Sabi

male leopard while on safari at Sabi Sabi Little Bush Camp

Leopards mate every 15 minutes for 5 days but the sessions are a matter of seconds before they pull away and begin to rest again. When we got to the area it was now a waiting game. With the two Little Bush Camp vehicles first to respond, we strategically placed the vehicles in different areas, turned off the engines and waited for the dawn chorus to be disrupted by the violent noises of these mating cats.

leopards mating while on safari game drive at sabi sabi private game reserve

Everyone was quiet, listening intently, when suddenly the silence was broken by the low, deep throated noise of the male mating followed by the growls as the female kicked him off. We head straight there and found the dominant male from the eastern section of the reserve mating with the female that lives around Little Bush Camp. She had cubs about 5 months ago but they must have been killed and she has come back into oestrus to again try and successfully raise a new batch of cubs in this unforgiving environment. Infant mortality is around 60% in the cats and she will have to work hard to keep the next litter alive.

female leopard at sabi sabi

That afternoon we returned hoping again to see these two in action and we found them right where we had left them that morning and they were still going at it. They had literally flattened a huge patch of red grass from all the activity, which allowed for a better opportunity to watch this amazing interaction. The female instigates the mating by growling, rubbing herself up against the male and presenting herself, he would then mount her and the copulation would last a few seconds before he retracts his barbed penis from her causing her pain. She would then spin around and try hit him to get him off. The guests were spellbound by this amazing interaction and we sat for an hour watching the two of them go at it. By this stage he was already tired and had to turn down some of her advances in order to regain some energy for the next round.

leopards mating while on safari game drive at sabi sabi private game reserve

leopards mating at sabi sabi private game reserve

leopards mating while on safari game drive at sabi sabi

Another incredible day at Sabi Sabi and it was all topped off by a sundowner while watching an amazing sunset over the Drakensberg mountain range. All I can say is WOW.

sabi sabi sunset

by: Richard de Gouveia (Little Bush Camp ranger)


  1. justin says

    Very cool pics and video. In yor video, from about 1min 26, what bird is calling in the background, its frustrating me, as I know the call, just cant remember the bird!
    Thanks for the blog, always enjoy it!

    • ranger rich says

      Hey Justin…thank for the comments, the bird calling around the end of the video is a pearl spotted owlet. These are crepuscular owls which mean they are active at dawn and dusk and this video was shot late in the afternoon. Glad you enjoy the blog!

  2. frank says

    Brilliant! Thats Sandriver isnt it?
    Still have pictures of the lion females and cubs walking along track you took the other day behind all the comments,making it very difficult to read, Frank

    • sabi sabi says

      Hi Frank..We will email you directly to get more detail as it is showing up fine on all ipads we have tried..we will be in contact with you soon and do all we can to fix this for you.

    • ranger rich says

      Thanks Frank…appreciate it. On the name of the leopard, you are right but we do not name the leopards as they are wild and we do not want to create a perception that these animals are pets. I trust you understand. Have a great day and i am sure the IT guys will do their best to sort out your problem.

  3. patty says

    Thank you Richard. Have been back home for a week and a day, and still dream each night of the animals and the bush! Thank you for keeping us on your mailing. Great to see the leopards again! Have you seen the young male again, that we witnessed fighting with the dominant male? Is this mating male the same dominant one, and is this the same female? What an experience! Thanks again!

    • ranger rich says

      Hi Patty!

      I am so glad that you enjoyed your experience with us! We saw the young male 2 nights ago, there is picture of him up on our facebook page if you want to see him!

      This is a different female and dominant male than the ones that you saw. These two are based more around the western side of our reserve!

      Keep reading and we will catch up with you later! Have a great day!

  4. ami says

    Thank you Richard for sharing the wonderful pictures.
    I love them – after taking some 1400 pictures on our trip myself it is going to take quite some time for me to get them up and running – yours are amazing!

  5. mj says

    What an awesome siting! I think that the (cats especially) should be given some kind of identification so we can tell who is who and where they are..
    Just my lil ole opinion, which doesn’t really count for much! LOL

    Thanks for all you do!

    • ranger rich says

      I hear you MJ! Thanks for the feedback…it will all be noted! It was an amazing sighting! Thanks for the comment

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