In my early years in the Mara I dreamed to see a Leopard carrying a cub in her mouth, such a rare and intimate moment in the life of one of Africa’s most elusive cats. No luck for me until September 2012, when a beautiful female I had never seen before came out of a bush with one of her three cubs in the mouth. That image ended up in my “Light and Dust” book, published in 2015. Nothing again since then, until one amazing morning in early August 2019. In late July I heard that Luluka, a young four years-old Leopard, was seen carrying a tiny, two weeks-old cub to a clump of bushes along a river in the Mara. I spent a lot of time in the following days, both with guests and without, waiting for her to show it again. She finally did in the most glorious way, just after sunrise, and she walked a really long distance on open plains to avoid groups of Lions scattered along the river. She was escaping from a male Leopard seen in the area, obviously not the father of the cubs. For some of my new guests, it was the first Leopard they saw in their life!
As she walked, suddenly a lioness appeared ahead of her. Fortunately she saw her and she dropped into a hole in the plains. The lioness had seen her already. She walked towards where the leopard disappeared with a cold and determined look in her eyes. She searched but fortunately she couldn’t find her. As the day grew warmer the lioness lost interest. Luluka reappeared from the hole without her cub to keep an eye on the lioness as she walked away.
After leaving the first cub in the hole she came back out soon after to keep an eye on the movements of the lions. When she was sure that they had gone to sleep she walked away from the hole. We had no idea where she would go. We thought she might be hunting. But as we followed her from a distance it was clear that she was backtracking and heading back to where we found her in the morning. She reached the place where she picked up the first cub this morning and disappeared into the bushes again. We realized that most likely she had another cub hidden there. And surely, a few minutes later she appeared again with another cub. By now it was middle of the day and there were very few cars left. She followed the same route to avoid the various groups of lions scattered along the river and went to a hole about 200mts away from the one where the other cub was. She dropped in and disappeared until late afternoon, when she came out again to keep an eye on the lions that were by now waking up. At one point she would have to reunite the two cubs but most likely she wanted to wait until the next day when the lions would be gone.