Leopards are notoriously difficult to spot when you are on safari as they are both solitary and shy. I've spent days on safari looking for leopard with no luck, they are masters at hiding. But on a recent trip to Botswana, we saw leopard almost daily, so there are definitely safari destinations where your chances of seeing leopard are better than others. Below, I've listed the top National Parks and Conservancies to spot leopard, one of Africa's "Big Five". But remember there are never any guarantees on safari!
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There is a very healthy population of leopard in the Greater Kruger area, and the good news is, many of these solitary and shy animals have become comfortable around safari vehicles. Particularly in Sabi Sand Reserve, Mala Mala, Timbavati and Londolozi, you have a very good chance of seeing leopard both during the day and night.
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The Okavango River cuts through the center of Botswana's Kalahari Desert, creating a unique inland water system that gives life to a huge variety of birds and mammals, including large herds of elephant. Most of the land-based camps in the area offer excellent elephant sightings. If you want a truly special elephant experience you should head to either Abu Camp in the Jao concession or one of the two Sanctuary camps (Baines or Stanley's) for the unparalleled "living with elephants experience". Here you will get to meet habituated elephants where you can touch, smell and physically interact with these beautiful animals while learning all about them.
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Chobe National Park in the northwest region of Botswana is also a good bet if you want to spot leopards, in particular, the Savute and Linyanti areas where many leopards have become quite used to vehicles making them a little easier to spot. At the higher end properties on private concessions the resident guides know what individuals roam in specific territories close to the camps, and this helps your odds of finding them.
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sEven if you miss the great migration (July - October) in the Masai Mara, your chances of seeing leopards in the Mara eco-system is very high, especially around the Mara and Talek river (where the bush is dense). Staying in a private conservancy that allows for night drives will increase your chances of seeing leopards. A close second to the Mara in Kenya is Amboseli National Park, which offers the scenic backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro and excellent wildlife viewing.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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South Luangwa National Park lies in eastern Zambia, in the Luangwa Valley at the tail end of Africa's great rift valley. The Luangwa River runs through the middle of this 3,475 square mile (9050 sq km) park. This is perfect leopard territory and the fact that night drives are allowed inside the park makes it excellent for spotting leopards on safari. Aim for the dry season (May - September) as many camps close down during the heavy rains.
Leopards live throughout sub-Saharan Africa, they cover a wide range of habitats from the thick forests of West Africa to the highlands of Ethiopia, but they prefer thick bush and riverine forests. It is easy for this solitary and shy animal to hide from safari vehicles making them difficult to spot. Leopard are also active at night, so booking a safari that offers night drives can improve your chances of spotting this beautiful cat.