Early game hunters and explorers coined the phrase ‘big five’ during the early to mid-1800s. They were much wanted prizes and it was a considerable feat if a hunter was able bag one, or more, let alone bring home a trophy. The big five – leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino – are still the heavyweights of the bush but without the hunting associations.
Today, they’re among most sought-after safari sightings. Tourists from around the world travel to Jock Safari Lodge to see them and while most are able to tick the majority off their list, it is always the elusive leopard which seems to be the hardest to track. The southern part of the Kruger has a high density of leopard, with some experts claiming it to be the world’s highest. While there are no guarantees in the bush, there is no shortage of leopard in the Jock Concession, whose rivers, streams and rocky outcrops form the perfect leopard habitat. Jock is set in the heart of the original Kruger National Park, the wildlife within this region have survived undisturbed without negative impact from mankind. It’s an area of unbroken landscape where the wildlife has always been encouraged to thrive.
Secretive and silent, the leopard is a creature of the dark and even in darkness, it travels alone. A long, muscular body, thick limbs and heavy paws give it an aura of strength. It combines the vigour characteristic of big cats with the versatility and grace of the smaller cats, and like many small cat species, it’s an agile climber. But even when snoozing in a favourite tree – legs dangling, lethal weapons sheathed, pale green eyes closed against the sun’s glare, with only the tip of the tail curling and twitching with a restless spirit of its own – this consummate master of concealment embodies the heart and soul of a hunter.
The riverine thickets, gallery forests and dense reed beds flanking the Kruger’s perennial rivers are prime leopard territory. Renowned for avoiding encounters with people, unlike lions, they’re furtive, appearing and vanishing like a hallucination. Their camouflage is adapted to the dappled light of forest and bushveld, their pelt a strategic device rendering them invisible to quarry and enemies alike. Patterned with a black rosette that comes in an infinite variety of forms, the mottled pelage is a manifestation of that process of genetic winnowing through the millennia known as natural selection. It also sets individual leopards apart as no two sets of markings are alike.
A high density of prey species, such as impala, warthog and bushbuck, results in smaller leopard territories. Known leopards that are currently seen often on the Jock Concession are recognised by spot patterns and named after the area they frequently visit. These animals are extremely habituated to vehicles and show no fear when viewed, even for long periods of time.
If the Big Five is something that appeals to you, do not hesitate to contact our Reservations team to secure your next stay at Jock Safari Lodge.