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Best places to see leopards in the wild

The elusive leopard has to be Africa’s most alluring big cat but did you know…

there are larger populations of African leopard (Panthera pardus) than the African rhino but they are secretive, elusive and equally had to spot on an African safari in search of the Big 5.

Chitabe_-_Leopard_courtesy SimonHartinger

A Leopard will use a tree as an observation platform and for protection, so a word of advice…. remember to look up, you may see more than just birds on the wing. Solitary, shy and beautiful, leopards are nocturnal their peak time for activity is between sunset and sunrise, this is when they kill the majority of their prey. They have been known to head for the thickets of thorn during daylight hours in the wet season in search of feeding impala. They have great agility and are able to climb and swim and live in a wider expanse of habitats than many other wild cats.


The leopard is camouflaged by its spots as it moves about. They rarely remain in the same area for more than 3 or 4 days. A male leopard has a tendency to roam more extensively than a female, he will mark his territory with claw marks and by urinating. The leopard cleverly stores his fresh kill in a tree, keeping well out of reach of both poachers and other predators. A male leopard, despite being smaller than a lion can weigh up to 200 lbs, are very agile and can run at a speed of 35 mph. (58 km/h) and have a life expectancy of between 12 – 17 years in the wild. An adult male African Leopard weighs in at around 60kg. The female adult at around 35-40kg.

African leopards have adapted to a range of habitats from savannas and grasslands and mountainous, riverine forest areas of Africa preferring to reside in rocky landscapes and dense bush. They tend not to live in the more arid semi desert areas because of the lack of food and water.

Enough of the facts, now down to business… here’s our Top 5 best places to see leopards in the wild:

At number 5 we have…

  • The Masai Mara in south-west Kenya, one of Africa’s greatest wildlife reserves. Famous for the abundance of big cats – leopard, cheetah and lion drawn by the sheer volume of prey and home to the Maasai people, renowned for their distinctive dress and customs.
  • Stay at… Rekero in Asilia is the best situated camp in the area, in a riverine forest on the banks of the River Talek, just a couple if kms from the confluence with the River Mara. Little Governors Camp in the Mara Governors, in woodland along the west bank of the Mara river by a lovely lagoon.
  • Best time to go… between July and October (when the Wildebeest migration usually reaches the Masai Mara) or December to February when the weather is dryer.

Number 4…

  • Makalolo Concession in Hwange is an area of ecologically diverse open palm-fringed plains, teak forests and acacia woodlands. A year-round food “pantry” for the resident animals. One of the best parks for spotting leopard and other predators with regular sightings of lion, cheetah, wild dog and cheetah.
  • Where to stay… Makalolo has two small camps – Little Makalolo and Davison’s. These camps have exclusive access to this expansive concession area.
  • Best time to go… between the months of June and November inclusive.

Number 3…

  • Linyanti. Good for sightings of leopard and predator sightings of cheetah, wild dog, lion and spotted hyena. Look out for concentrations of elephant congregating along lagoons during dry winter season, Burchell’s zebra, red lechwe, warthog. buffalo and giraffe.
  • Where to stay… Duma Tau, (meaning ‘roar of the lion,’) in the private Linyanti Wildlife Reserve. A luxury camp with ten tents (two family and eight twin) in the western Chobe National Park.
  • Best time to go… between the months of June and November inclusive.

Number 2…

  • Okavango Delta. The Mombo Concession “the place of plenty” has become renowned for its incredible leopard sightings since the filming of ‘Eye of the Leopard’ which was filmed in the area. In addition, there are good numbers of lions and cheetah, large buffalo herds, spotted hyena white rhino to name a few predators as well as plains game.
  • Where to stay… stay at Mombo Camp,
  • Best time to go… between the months of June and November inclusive.

At number one…

  • Africa’s leopard capital… Zambia’s South Luangwa, a fantastic park to view the most elusive of all big cats in pristine surroundings. The South Luangwa National Park, Zambia’s finest wildlife sanctuary is the best place in Africa to see leopards in the wild, especially around the lagoons and woodland on the river floodplain. We’ve had reports of numerous leopard sightings even over just a few days with regular night drives the best way to spot the leopard. South Luangwa has a high density of animal populations with scores of crocodiles and hippos in addition to other creatures unique to this area – Cookson’s Wildebeest Thornicroft’s Giraffe.
  • Where to stay… South Luangwa has some excellent camps: Mfuwe Lodge, Bilimungwe, Chamilandu, Chindeni, Kapamba and Zungulila.
  • Best time to go… between the months of June and November inclusive. However the green season December to March offer great Leopard opportunities too.

Get out to the top spot with our Luangwa Explorer 

Now you have the facts you can choose from our selection… Top 5 best places to see leopards in the wild. Why not combine two or three of the camps to optimize your sightings. Email or give us a call and speak to one of our travel experts.


Did you know… The leopards’ spots are circular in East Africa but square in southern Africa?

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