The Art of Leopard Tracking: A Xaa Safaris Adventure in the CKGR

26 Aug 2019
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Xaa Safaris

The CKGR is host to some of the country's big cats, ranging from Lions, Cheetahs & Leopards. On the morning of the 3rd August 2019, the Xaa Safaris team set out to track the infamous CKGR Leopards, one of the rarest sightings in the area. Leopards are the lone rangers of the animal kingdom, elusive; cunning and stealthy. They are territorial and mark their territories by leaving claw marks on trees as well as with urine, this is to keep other leopards away.

As a rule of thumb, when leopard tracking it is wise to start looking by riversides; tree or shrubbery filled areas. Within the 30 minutes of driving towards the Sunday Watering Hole, our Guide Puso spotted two sets of cat tracks, one adult & one small cat.

Puso explained to us that cat paw prints are distinctive in two ways:

1.) The palm is sectioned into three equal parts and

2.) It has four toes in the front.

He contrasted it with a dog palm, which is sectioned into two uneven sizes (a big and small section) and has four toes as well. Judging by size, firstly, we could tell it was not a lion as lion paws as they measure bigger than of the other cats. Secondly, we could tell it was not a Cheetah paw print as Cheetahs do not have retractable nails and there would have been nail tracks in the print mark.

We followed the tracks to where they stopped, in an area filled with trees & shrubs (the Sunday Watering Hole turn off) the leopards favourite resting environment. Puso switched off the engine and reminded us to be very quiet, we took out our binoculars and searched for Mama Leo and her cub. Most leopards are a light khaki/cream colour and have dark spots (dark border and lighter colour filled in) on their fur. These spots are called "rosettes" because of their similar shape to that of a rose. This combination of colour and markings makes it difficult for one to spot Leopards in the bush.

Our Guides sharp eye spotted the leopard resting by a tree, but unfortunately she had already hidden the cub. We drove closer to it and switched off our engine, hoping to spot the cub. The minute we stopped the car she moved into another area, Puso explained that the idea of moving is to get us to follow her and move us away from her cub's actual location.

An amazing way to end of our epic Xaa Safaris Kalahari adventure, a rare sighting at the edge of the Deception Valley.