Everyone has their favorite cat on safari.  Lion is easy; they’re the biggest and the baddest.  Cheetah is a great choice too.  They’re lean and graceful and if you’re lucky enough to see them run it’s truly a sight to behold.  I think, however, that many people’s favorite changes when they catch their first quality glimpse of a leopard.

Maybe it has something to do with how elusive they are.  Lions maybe lose a bit of their appeal the 10th time you’ve seen them strewn about in the middle of a dry river bed, the same place you saw them sleeping 6 hours earlier.  Just like your cat or dog at home, they can relax in the most bizarre, unflattering positions.

A leopard, however, is a much more rare sight.  They’re often shy, solitary animals that find refuge high up in acacia trees.  I sometimes wonder how many hidden leopards I’ve driven past, totally oblivious.  When you first glimpse one, however, it’s a moving experience.  The look in the eye is intense, and the spots on their coat too beautiful to appreciate all at once.

I also love how incredibly comfortable a leopard manages to get way up in a tree.  If you’ve seen a lion haul itself up a tree, you realize not all cats are as skilled for the task!

There is an elegance a leopard possesses, unmatched in the African bush.  This girl was found in the Ndutu region of Tanzania on my most recent photographic safari.  Click the pic to see a larger version.