Leopards are considered to be solitary cats. I was confident that we’d see at least one, as this part of the Sabi Sands is renowned for great leopard sightings. As we left Kirkman’s Kamp for our first evening game drive, I was looking forward to some exciting encounters – and this one really took the cake.

A leopard had been located along the Sand River earlier that morning, with a freshly killed impala ram. We eased our way off road along the tracks of another land rover, and within about 50 yards we spotted a female leopard fast asleep in the long grass. Just 20 yards past her we saw movement and realised that there was second leopard feeding on the impala carcass.

We positioned our vehicle for a better look, and watched the large male leopard crunching through the softer bones and stripping flesh from the carcass. Slightly off to the right, we caught sight of yet another leopard – this one was about a year and a half old, lying quietly at the base of a marula tree. Three leopards in one sighting was an incredible way to kick off our safari, and we spent most of the afternoon with the trio. As dusk approached, the male seemed to be on the brink of treeing the remains of the carcass, but eventually decided he had eaten his fill, and walked away. This gave the young leopard her chance to move in and enjoy the leftovers, keeping us entertained as she paused between mouthfuls to “kill” the obviously deceased impala ram.

This was an incredible privilege to see three of these magnificent cats together, doing what they do best – thriving in their favourite densely vegetated habitat and keeping the herds of antelope in check. During the early winter in South Africa, the impala rams are rutting – fighting for females and mating rights. It’s interesting to compare the ratio of male to female impalas killed during this time of year, as the males make up the majority for the simple reason that they are not as vigilant due to chasing other males, clashing horns, and preparing to mate. This is an irresistible situation for predators, who take full advantage of the male impalas’ lowered awareness during this period.