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Leopard Portrait


By Andrea Corwin Published 23 days ago Updated 17 days ago 4 min read
Leopard, Tanzania

I have visited the socialist country of Tanzania three times over the last twelve years. The last trip, in 2023, was the longest and most thrilling. Our tour director was the incredible Maasai tribesman Robert Marks. Born in the Ngorongoro Crater, his mother died in childbirth, and he was raised by missionaries. Rather than growing up as a goat herder in the Crater, Robert became a Tanzanian medical doctor and is employed by NatGeo as a professional wildlife photographer. He even appeared on the Jack Hannah show, an episode I've seen.

(c) Andrea O. Corwin Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage - Nairobi, Kenya

Just a week before we met Robert, we were in Kenya. Our guide, Benson, controlled the various personalities in our tour group with aplomb and did not allow confusion, disruption, or dissent. He reviewed our itinerary daily over breakfast and prepped us each night as we parted ways.

Tanzanian Robert was more laid-back and provided less detail. I was okay with that, though. Think Hawaii mellow vs. New York City impatience. His amiable personality and charm, coupled with his signature shorts, hat, red jacket, and boots, made him a super poser for the camera. He wore tribal bracelets and a unique necklace that could only be duplicated by his tribe. When we asked him where we could get one of our own, Robert said they weren't for sale. I found it odd that he sometimes wore his red down jacket in hot weather, and when I asked him why, he responded like a true nomad, "It is easier to wear my possessions than to carry all of them."

(c) Andrea O. Corwin Serengeti National Park gate

We took photos at the gate to the Serengeti, which is eighteen times larger than Kenya's Masai Mara. We stayed at one of the two camps allowed into a particular area of the Serengeti we had never been to. Serengeti areas are usually crowded with jeeps, and our drivers always managed to jockey us for great photos. In this new area, we only saw one other jeep near us!

Early one morning, Robert climbed into our jeep and said we would see a leopard. He directed our driver to where he heard a leopard was spotted. Although he told the other drivers, they went to the crowded portion, and we didn't see them again until lunch. We were thrilled to be in a secluded area.

Leopards are not easy to spot in East Africa. They are usually loners unless it is a female with a cub. Even then, leopards hide easily in trees or on riverbank cliffs behind foliage.

Robert pointed upward, and above, in the tree, was a leopard. We all took a deep breath and then sat silently watching the beautiful spotted big cat, clicking away on our cameras. Suddenly, the leopard moved his head and looked directly at us. This photo was more thrilling than any of a lion or cheetah. But I'll let you be the judge of that.

After the leopard sighting, we drove to see what else we could find. Rolling along amongst herds of zebra and wildebeest, we saw lions walking near the road. Quickly stopping, we could tell that one had picked out her prey. When I told Robert I didn't want to see a kill, he laughed and said he would try and find a vegetarian lion for me. Despite this, I felt a little thrill watching her sprint after the zebra she had selected. Joined by her sisters, hunters and prey disappeared from sight.

While my eyes were spared, my ears weren't. We all heard the zebra's squeals as the lions took it down. While I was crouched down in my seat, eyes and ears covered, everyone else was on tippy-toe, hoping to see something.

The lead lioness had two male yearling cubs lounging in the bushes away from the hunt. Our driver pointed, saying, "Look, there! She is returning for her boys. Can you hear her calling them?" He followed at a distance, and we saw her face covered in the zebra's blood. Her boys ran out to greet her, and all three strolled back over the hill to join in the meal.

zebra kill

Where there are lions, there are hyenas. In the distance, we could see them circling another carcass. Suddenly, we could see one run away with a fifty-pound leg in its mouth. Running with that much weight shows how strong hyenas are. Hyenas are the second largest predator after the lion, and they often compete with them for food.

Hyena with 50-pound leg his mother let him take

Later in our trip, as we departed our lodge to visit the Ngorongoro Crater, we encountered a bull elephant that suddenly stepped in front of our jeep. Luckily, my husband and I had rotated to the front seats that day, so our photos were amazing. Our driver cut the engine and whispered to us not to move or make any noise. As an experienced visitor, I was thrilled to have the elephant up close, but the others were frozen from fear in the seats behind us. Through the windshield, I quietly snapped photos. After thirty minutes, the driver softly radioed and decided to restart the Jeep engine. As it roared to life, so did the bull! He rocked back on his legs, and our driver chuckled! "What is so funny?" I asked. "He fell asleep in the road, and the engine woke him."

face off with bull elephant - except he was napping

The Jumbo (a name sometimes used) assessed us and then slowly lumbered up the hill to our right. A video showed 3 elephants crossing in front of us and the huge bull; once they crossed he followed.

Our driver later explained that he was pretty worried during this stand-off because of the three female elephants standing on the side. If they had stepped into the road, we might have been attacked from the side and the front.

Copyright © 5/22/2024 by Andrea O. Corwin

Thanks for reading. If you liked it, please give it a ♡ and drop a comment.

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About the Creator

Andrea Corwin

🐘Wildlife 🌳 Environment 🥋3rd°

Pieces I fabricate, without A.I. © 2024 Andrea O. Corwin


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Comments (11)

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  • Andy Potts4 days ago

    That brought back some memories for me. Went to Tanzania on honeymoon and had a magical time. We visited Ruaha and Lake Selous, both of which were relatively off the tourist trail so we weren't much disturbed by other visitors. Lots of happy memories from that trip. Can't believe it's been 10 years (and we're still together!).

  • very good

  • Sweileh 88810 days ago

    Interesting and delicious content, keep posting more.

  • D. J. Reddall23 days ago

    A remarkable tale, accompanied by extraordinary images! The raw power of that hyena is something to behold, and the leopard is beautiful.

  • Katie Erdman23 days ago

    What a story and that leopard photo! Wow!

  • Murali23 days ago

    Do you watch wildlife documentaries? If so, what is your favorite documentary?

  • Kodah23 days ago

    Awww :( The zebra 🥺 Love the photos, Andrea! Looks like an experience! 💝

  • Oh nooooo, that poor Zebra 🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺 And lol, that elephant hahahahahahhahaha

  • Your attempt is valuable. Good luck.

  • Michelle Liew23 days ago

    Wow! Never been to Tanzania, and I do hope I get the chance to visit. A beautiful memoir and excellent photography!

  • John Cox23 days ago

    Amazing story and photos! That leopard looks so incredibly near, like you climbed the tree to take it! And that elephant! Good grief!

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