The Khwai area is located in the North Eastern part of the Okavango Delta, bordering the Khwai River – to the west of Khwai Village. I was guiding a 10 day Migration Route recently, and on our first afternoon in the Khwai Concession, we were lucky enough to spot a very relaxed female leopard – calmly walking by the road side. I turned the vehicle off and we spent some time observing her behavior, we then followed her at a comfortable distance for a while, before she turned from the road into the bush…She seemed to be walking purposefully – I suspected she might have been hungry, and we could possibly see some more interaction if we kept following at a generous distance, making sure not to interrupt or obstruct any opportunity she might have for finding a meal.
I discussed my thoughts and plan with the guests, and then continued to follow her patiently through some Mopane woodland. She was about 50m ahead of us – walking slowly and without making noise…stopping to look around every now and again… ever leading us further west. She eventually slowed down and started making soft, low calls, and to our surprise, two young cubs suddenly appeared, crawling out of a fallen over, hollow Mopane log. They were still very small, with their fur quiet dark and they were making warbling noises, greeting their mother. I suspected they could not have been more than a couple of weeks old, possibly even younger.
This sighting was very special, and an unexpected highlight for me and the guests. This was their first ever leopard sighting, on their first trip to Africa. We have since restricted access to the area in which this female is raising her cubs, as they are at their most vulnerable when still too young. Too much disturbance might also make her move the cubs prematurely, which might attract unwanted attention and that could easily end in disaster.
So, while we are giving her more space and privacy with the cubs, she is certainly still affording us excellent viewing of her out and about patrolling her territory and looking for opportunities for food, and as the cubs grow, we hope to see more of them with their mother…