In Search of Kenya’s Elusive Leopard

Seattle Dredge July 9, 2013 20

“Beneath the bushes,” Peter hissed at us in an urgent whisper from the front seat, pointing to a thick growth of Camphor shrubs on the far edge of a grassy field.

Suddenly, everyone frantically clamoured to the left side of the van, standing on the tips of their toes to get a better look. Instead, I stood up on my seat, lifted myself out through the open hatch top and perched on the edge of the roof.

Sunset over Kenya

Sunset over Kenya

There was a subtle charge to the air as everyone stood with cameras and binoculars at the ready, waiting for the elusive jungle cat to emerge. With our breaths held collectively, no one dared to make a sound in fear of frightening the animal or losing concentration on the spot where it was hidden. The feeling of anticipation was so thick and palpable that I could feel the hairs begin to rise on the back of my neck. While everyone was focused on the distant bushes, a brief flicker of movement caught my eye from the tall grass directly below me.

That’s when I noticed a glossy pair of golden yellow eyes staring directly back at me.

Lion in Kenya

Lion in Kenya

We were only on the fourth day of our Kenya safari experience, yet we had already checked off nearly every species from the animal sighting bucket list. The first days were spent traversing the open plains of the Masai Mara with rewarding encounters of elephants, giraffes, buffalo, gazelles, hyenas, zebras and crocodiles. We saw more animals than we could count, had lunch on the open savannah and slept in luxury tents to the nighttime symphony of frolicsome hippos.

It was the big cats that usually seemed to cause the greatest ripple of excitement among the group. We spent hours following several prides of lions around the arid grasslands, watching them rest, play, hunt and eat. The old males were large and scruffy while the young cubs were energetic and full of life. It wasn’t until our last morning on the Mara that we spotted a cheetah in a standoff with her breakfast, putting every nature documentary I had ever watched into perspective.

But, the animal I had come for was the leopard.

The leopard was always my favourite of the African animals, with their intricate spots and mysterious demeanor; I had been dreaming of seeing one in the wild for most of my life. I knew that if nowhere else, Lake Nakuru National Park would be the place where I would have the best chance of seeing one.

Giraffe hanging out in Kenya.

Giraffe hanging out in Kenya.

The first day in Nakuru welcomed sightings of white and black rhinoceros, waterbucks, flamingoes, antelope and even more zebras and giraffes. We explored the shores of the Lake itself, drove through the winding forest trails watching baboons hop from branch to branch above our heads and watched all of the animals graze within close proximity.

But, no leopards.

I returned to the lodge with secret disappointment, but convinced myself that I would just have to return to Kenya one day. Not that I would need any convincing.

Early the next morning our guide announced that we would be taking one final game drive of Lake Nakuru before heading on to Amboseli. As the morning mists rose off the opalescent lake and we set out into the park I knew that I was going to see my leopard.

Leopard hiding in Kenya.

Leopard hiding in Kenya.

There were ten magical seconds in which our eyes locked together and I lost sight of everything else around us. No one else had noticed the camouflaged leopard that sat no more than five meters from our van and they were all too distracted by the possibility of a sighting across the field.

It was just me and her.

When I finally managed to pull myself back to the real world I called out to the others to turn around. That’s when she darted for cover and disappeared back into the tall grass.

Please note that the contest is now closed.

20 Comments »

  1. Helen July 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Oh, lucky, LUCKY you! The leopard is the one animal I missed in Kenya. What a special moment.

  2. laura feist, mrs July 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    love to win this

  3. Cornelia Burke July 12, 2013 at 1:31 am - Reply

    Love to Travel

  4. Carl Todasco July 12, 2013 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    wow

  5. Maureen Becklund July 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    Love kenya

  6. TODD COBURN July 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    Would love this trip

  7. Sammie Harris, Jr. July 13, 2013 at 9:52 am - Reply

    Great!

  8. nicole July 14, 2013 at 12:37 am - Reply

    My kids love animals

  9. Bonnie Florentine July 14, 2013 at 10:06 am - Reply

    wonderful contest.

  10. Evert Robinson July 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    I can only imagine the feelings when your there

  11. tom lyons July 15, 2013 at 9:47 am - Reply

    I would love to have this opportunity.

  12. DIANNE DELODDER July 15, 2013 at 9:49 am - Reply

    I can hardly wait to go. What an adventure and unique part of the world. Live for the moment and enjoy nature at its best.

  13. Denise Bustard July 15, 2013 at 9:54 am - Reply

    I had a trip to Africa to help the needy so now this trip would be for enjoying Nature and the great wild animals.

  14. Eva Mack July 15, 2013 at 11:42 am - Reply

    for fun

  15. Greg troast July 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Great concept and exciting

  16. Liz Stokes July 15, 2013 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    What an awesome trip!

  17. Stachia Irwin July 15, 2013 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    Wow it looks and sounds amazing!!!! My boyfriend and I are always watching nature shows on tv and we would absolutely love a chance to go to Kenya. I think it would be an amazing experience.

  18. Carrie Conrad July 15, 2013 at 11:53 pm - Reply

    Have always dreamed of visiting Africa since I was little

  19. Rosie King July 27, 2013 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Would love to see the animals in Africa!

  20. graeme hansen July 27, 2014 at 12:36 am - Reply

    Kenya my next visit

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