The Kruger National Park is full of wonderful surprises as Chad Cocking found out on his visit to the park in 2008. Chad had the unbelievable luck of witnessing a leopard and her cub as they crossed the Sabie River.

Chad recounts:

I went to Kruger not to see big cats, but rather just to enjoy the big herds of general game and varied landscapes that I never get to see in the Timbavati. One day we approached a bridge crossing the Sabie River (at the confluence of the Sand River) and saw four or five cars parked watching something to the east.

“xpecting it to be elephants or hippos, we tentatively pulled up alongside the railing where we saw a leopard lying on a rock island in the middle of the river. The leopard was clearly not alone – continuously calling for her cub.

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A few minutes passed before the young cub of about four months emerged from the reeds on a larger island to the north. The problem was that the mother and cub were now separated by about four to five metres of rather fast flowing water without a land-bridge to cross, and the only way to get across was to swim…

We were all quite relieved when the cub made it across to its mom – albeit looking more like a drowned rat now than a leopard cub!

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Our relief was short lived as mom promptly led the cub to the edge of the rock island and sprang a couple of metres across another torrent of water to the safety of the southern bank, but again, it was just too far for the little cub to make in one go.

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For the second time in a matter of minutes, the little leopard plunged itself into the river and thankfully managed to swim safely to the shoreline where it joined up with mom  before they left the area.

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This scene left us all grinning at a far more wonderful leopard sighting in the Kruger than I could have imagined (made even more impressive by the fact that mom had only one eye!).

About the photographer

Chad Cocking is a passionate wildlife photographer and field guide. He has six years’ working experience at the Motswari Private Game Reserve in Greater Kruger. His passion for photography has increased over the years, as has the size of his camera!