The Story of Langklaas, my Kgalagadi Leopardess (Part 1) – An Inspiration

It was 3 June 2012… The middle of winter was approaching in the KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER PARK in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. We were camping at the Nossob Rest Camp and were not all that happy and a bit annoyed about the park’s gate that only opened at 07H30. But as usual, we were the first to stand in the queue to receive our day permit and managed to leave the rest camp a couple of seconds before 07H30… Our mission for the morning: Cubitje Quap waterhole, which is about a 12 km drive to the north on the dirt roads of the park.

 

Cubitje Quap is well known for the spectacular scene of thousands of cape turtle doves and other birds that drink there during the early mornings and mostly late afternoons. This spectacle presents some awesome photographic opportunities for photographing amongst others jackals and lanner falcons hunting these birds. You can read my previous blog post BEHIND THE IMAGE – CAPTURING “HOSTILE TAKE OVER”, to view some other images taken at Cubitje Quap and the story behind it all…

 

My wife, Lindie (who is my dedicated “driver” most of the time), and I were once again looking forward to the unexpected surprises that that morning might present…

 

 

We were alone at Cubitje Quap – One characteristic of the Kgalagadi that you will find in few other national parks in South Africa, if any at all. I suppose those that stood in the queue with us at reception to receive their day permits drove south from Nossob, as Cubitje Quap is situated to the North of Nossob. or they just took their time… The first couple of minutes at the waterhole did not present much action and with every passing minute I dreaded the rising sun and the passing of that golden hour all photographers dream about!

It was Lindie that first saw the movement in the tall grass beyond the waterhole – “Daar kom ‘n jagluiperd!” (“There comes a cheetah!”). My Canon 7D and 500mm F4 L lens were already resting on my trusted beanbag and I searched the area at which Lindie was pointing… I eventually got the “cheetah” in my viewfinder and my heart started pounding in my chest – It was not a cheetah, but my first Kgalagadi leopard in the golden first rays of the Kgalagadi sun!!

 

07H57

I was just focused on getting as many images of her as possible – To be honest… I cannot even recall any comments made by Lindie and I am sure she whispered many!

 

07H58

 

All the animals of the Kgalagadi are dependant on the man-made waterholes in the dry kalahari desert. The waterholes are filled by boreholes and mostly solar pumps – The Cubitje Quap borehole is about 91 meters deep into the hard kalahari soil and rocks.

I could not be sure, as I did not get one image that can confirm the leopard’s gender, but I knew!! Those soft yellow eyes and smooth lines of her face were screaming “female” and she immediately became my “Kalagadi leopardess”!

She leisurely made her way to the waterhole… ever so aware of her surroundings and other predators that might have been in the area…

Looking around and making sure it was safe to lower her head into the waterhole…

She started licking her lips… I suppose she was already tasting the life saving moisture, but she was still too alert and not sure about how safe her surroundings were…

07H59

 

 

08H00

She eventually lowered her head and drank… Unfortunately I could not get an image of her actually drinking, as the rock wall of the waterhole obscured my view.

08H01

 

08H02
“Kgalagadi Leopardess” – My favourite image of Langklaas.

 

She drank for less than a minute and started to make her way to the road where our vehicle was parked…

 

08H03

 

In retrospect I know that I made a big mistake by continuing to shoot with my 500mm lens! I should have opted at some stage for the 100-400mm lens on my Canon 50D that was lying on Lindie’s lap next to me! I cut off so many tails and missed soooooo many images! But yes, I suppose the moment was to big at the time!

 

08H04

 

After she walked pass our vehicle (so close that I could not get any decent images), she made her way to the dry Nossob riverbed. I was quick to request Lindie to move the vehicle for the first time – before then I was too afraid that the sound of the vehicle might scare her!

 

She searched the riverbed for prey (or enemies) for about a minute or two…
08H08

 

08H09

 

… and eventually made her way into one of the iconic camel thorn trees of the kalahari… it was only about then that some more vehicles arrived and Lindie and I smiled at one another in a mischievous way…!!
08H10

 

She only searched the dry Nossob riverbed for a couple of minutes, whereafter she leaped out of the tree and beyond sight…

 

We knew that we were witnesses to a special sighting and that the Kgalagadi once again delivered!

 

The whole sighting lasted all but about 13 minutes and it was the best 13 minutes in the Kgalagadi EVER!

 

Yes, I made many photographic mistakes and missed many opportunities, but at the end of the day it was still worth it!

 

This female leopardess with her true feminine features, became one of my all time great inspirations to persist with the hobby and passion as a wildlife photographer – It was once again patience and good old fashioned luck that paid some dividends! But she was also more that… or at least she became more than that in the past two years…

 

It was only after I started to post some images of  “my Kgalagadi leopardess” on social media, that I learned it was indeed a female leopard named “Langklaas”… An awkward name for a leopard, let alone for a graceful and beautiful leopardess!!

 

Yes, Kgalagadi leopards are all special and there are only a selected few people that have ever had the opportunity and privilege to see and photograph one! I suppose Kgalagadi leopards are more special than other leopards, because of, amongst other factors, the harsh habitat in which they must survive and the everlasting battle to raise cubs in the dry kalahari desert that are ruled by the mighty black maned kalahari lions… It is all about the circle of life in the kalahari desert…

 

But more about all of the latter, in Part 2 of “The Story of Langklaas, my Kgalagadi Leopardess”… Trust me, you do not want to miss out on the final chapter…!

 

You can CLICK HERE to be redirected to Part 2 of the story…

 

5 comments
  • Johan BenadeJune 10, 2014 - 04:36 - So nice to read and view the most beautiful images. Thanks for sharing your story. ReplyCancel

  • nanJune 10, 2014 - 13:13 - nice souvenirs for me too, I met Langklaas on the 25.4.2007 for the first time… unforgettable !ReplyCancel

  • ghettoriderJune 10, 2014 - 13:21 - Great shots . I was lucky to see a leopard on my first visitReplyCancel

  • Tony SparkesJune 27, 2014 - 19:53 - Hey Rudi, We were in the Camp at the same time as you like to have met up for a chat, seen you alot on the various forums and chats

    ReplyCancel

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