There’s no other place on earth where you will get closer to and have more encounters with leopards than at the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. The region has the highest density of leopards in Africa, mainly because of the tree-filled terrain which is the ideal habitat for leopards. They have become very successful here and in the 5 years that we have been visiting Sabi Sabi on the Ultimate Big 5 Safari there has hardly been a day when we didn’t find a leopard to photograph. They are very relaxed around the game vehicles and sometimes they get really, really close, which can make photography a bit difficult if you have a big lens on your camera. I often suggest to guests that they should also bring a shorter telephoto lens like a 70-200mm f/2.8 with them on this safari for these close encounters.
For some the excitement of seeing a wild leopard for the first time can often get in the way of concentrating on making sure your camera settings are optimised to get the right shot. It’s very seldom that you’ll see a leopard standing still for very long on the ground. They’re usually either on the hunt, or they’re busy marking and claiming territory and therefore moving constantly, so you will want to use the tracking autofocus method to keep the animal in focus as it is moving. Some modern cameras have really fast single shot autofocus, like my Olympus OM-D’s, so I tend to use this method instead. It often works out for me. I don’t use the grouped AF points, preferring to use the single small AF point instead, but for DSLR users you may want to set up your camera to use grouped AF points when tracking. I think some of them switch to that automatically, but read through your manual and see what it says.
Here’s a few of my favourite leopard shots from the last few visits to Sabi Sabi, as well as a couple of shots showing how close we sometimes get to these beautiful cats.