A leopard around Paul Kruger gate

Seeing a steady increase in your Kruger luck gets you even more excited for your next visit.

The route between Phabeni gate, Skukuza and Paul Kruger gate is a trip that is becoming more familiar to me. I am fortunate to use this route when traveling between work and heading back home.

As with any visit to the Kruger National Park, sightings may be a hit or miss. On my most recent entry to the park I enjoyed the welcomed addition of the many impala babies to their herds. Two or three large elephant bulls hid behind bushwillow thickets. It was a hot and humid day as it had just stopped raining that morning and the clouds just opened up.

I always enjoy the scenic drives through the national park. Any sightings of big game that I get I consider a bonus. I headed to Skukuza to grab a quick lunch and enjoy the river views. As the temperatures rose and humidity intensified I decided to make my way out and head back to work.

Passing the Phabeni gate sign en route to Paul Kruger gate, I noticed a few cars idling on the side of the road. I wondered if I might get lucky with some cats. I quickly scanned the surroundings and there it was.

Avoiding the midday heat, a leopard used a mature Marula tree to rest in the shade. These iconic bushveld trees often have sturdy, well established, lateral branches that are perfect for a leopard to lounge on.

These cats can often be quite restless in the tree until they find the position that is most comfortable. The spotted cat lifted its head a few times to watch the cars come and go. Using these tall trees as a vantage point they are able to look out for incoming predators or unsuspecting prey.

Managing to find a leopard in a tree seems like winning the Kruger jackpot. I still have only had a handful of great leopards sightings in the iconic national park. This sighting pushed my luck to over ten quality sightings. Having spent a great amount of time with leopards where I work, I have learned a lot about their behaviour. Watching their movements and being patient, one can start timing certain behaviours and wait for the cues. What would a great leopard sighting be without a couple of yawns.

Often leopards will get moving once they have yawned and completed their stretches. The heat really started to rise and so I decided to get moving too. I thoroughly enjoyed this unexpected sighting on my way back out of the park.

What has your luck been like in the Kruger National Park and what are you still hoping to find?

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