The best place to photograph leopard in Africa

Without question, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, which shares a border with Kruger National Park, is definitely the best place to photograph leopard in the wild. And if you have to choose one particular place, let it be Londolozi.

For decades, Londolozi has had an intimate relationship with leopards. Set around the Sand River, the reserve creaks at the seams with leopard-size prey (impalas, warthog piglets, bushbuck and inattentive monkeys) and offers habitat so perfect for leopards it is almost as if the cats designed it themselves. Guests staying at Londolozi have a choice of five exclusive camps spread out along the banks of the Sand River. I personally recommend you the Varty Camp.

Typically the most elusive of Africa’s large predators, leopards are more easily encountered at Londolozi than anywhere else on the continent. Three decades of research have built up a wealth of information about each individual, and over time these notoriously shy predators have become relaxed around the reserve’s game viewing vehicles and offer exceptional sightings.

How to get there

From Johannesburg and Cape Town you can make use of scheduled flights to Kruger/Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) near Nelspruit. From here you can travel to Londolozi by car, make use of a road transfer or a short hop on a small aircraft. From Johannesburg the driving distance is approximately 450 kilometres. Most of the route from Johannesburg takes you along the N4 national road making it an easy and comfortable drive.

Let me put in a short side note here. I know many digital nomads and long-time travelers, who have often helped me to fly cheap or even completely free. A few weeks ago, I met Dane and Makaela Homenick, a couple who has been traveling the world for decades. On my own laptop, Dane showed me how to lower the price of my flight from London to Cape Town by over $ 1,000. And not only that. I mostly fly economy class, but Dane managed to get the extremely low price for a business class flight! I was allowed to carry twice as much luggage, eat for free in the business class lounge, and was served a champagne breakfast immediately after boarding. I highly recommend you to buy his flight hacking course which he sells over Clickbank for just $7. It will save you tons of time and money.

After arriving Sabi Sands Game Reserve use Shaw´s Gate to enter. It is very close to Londolozi. The gate is open from 5:00 am until 10:00 pm. You are required to pay ZAR 280 per vehicle. Further, an amount of ZAR 120 per person is charged. These rates are inclusive of VAT.

Accomodation in Londolozi Varty Camp costs 12.590 ZAR per night. The price includes two game drives or walking safaris per day, laundry, all meals and drinks and sometimes a few extras more.

Recommended photo gear

If you are a first time visitor you will be amazed at how relaxed the leopards are and how close you can get to them. All cameras and lens I show in my recommendations are more than enough to photograph leopards. You need a camera which can record clean images in low light and has built in a sensor with high dynamic range. I always recommend investing in a system with interchangeable lenses. Sometimes you need a longer focal length, sometimes the leopards are so close to the safari jeep that a focal length of 50mm is sufficient for full-frame portraits…

leopard
The leopard in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve like to rest in the trees. I took this picture with a Canon Rebel T6, the focal length was 200mm.

When you head out to photograph leopard remember:

  • Don’t try to mimic other photographers.  Do your own thing.
  • Know your equipment and how different settings influence your images.
  • Try different lenses.  Try different techniques.
  • Keep an open mind and shoot what you see.
  • Shoot.  Then shoot some more.

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