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By Jesse 17 April 2019

Nalango: Queen of Mara North

YZ Kenya specialist Jesse writes about his encounter with female leopard Nalango, when he was Head Trails Guide and camp manager at Offbeat Mara, Kenya.

We headed out after all the guests had gone out for their game drives at around 5:15pm. Driving out of camp, I was feeling extremely fortunate to be living in this beautiful setting in the middle of the Mara.

We set out across the front of camp and then crossed the dry Olare Orok river. As we came out the other side, we immediately stopped, pleasantly surprised by a small herd of elephants grazing on the acacia bushes before disappearing down onto the riverbed. I then re-started the car and headed east from the camp towards the place where Nalango had been spotted that morning, a valley running adjacent to the Olare Orok river and camp.

About 15 minutes later, after crossing the hill and plains and keeping a keen ear to the Maasai guides’ chatter on the radio, we got to Njoro Naibor, the valley east of camp. This is the area where Nalango hangs out the most, as it’s two valleys about a kilometre apart, both with a lot of woodland, other trees, and thick brush along the hills on either side where she can hide and seek refuge.

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I followed one of the car tracks that hugs the stream of Njoro Naibor, looking in the trees and passing three other camp cars that had had no luck spotting her. A couple of minutes later, after further searching, we heard that one of our spotters in another car with guests had found her right at the mouth of the valley.

So we turned around and we set off to where she had been sighted. As we got to the sighting, we parked up near our other camp car and found her sitting at the edge of the croton thickets in front of us – she was peering around, looking at her surroundings. We were extremely lucky, as it was only us and the other car at the sighting.

 
"Seeing a leopard in the wild is an amazing sighting, but Nalango has something about her that makes her so much more elegant – she is a stunning-looking cat and is extremely calm in our presence."
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Jesse on spotting Nalango
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As the excitement grew of finding her and seeing her, she got up and started to walk down into the meanders of the lugga. We followed her and eventually came out onto the middle of the plain where the lugga became shallow. Again she sat and looked around, and then started calling out for her cub. This immediately made me pick up my binoculars, as I knew that this meant the cub was going to join her.

A little over 20 minutes passed, and then the cub came up behind her in the lugga. She immediately got up and greeted the cub by rubbing herself against her. The love between a mother and cub is extremely strong in leopards, as they live solitary lives except for when they have cubs or are mating. The cub started to play with Nalango as she sat and looked around, and we watched them play, stroll, and groom each other until the dark set in. We left them in our red spotlight still playing together.

If you are interested in travelling to Kenya to see its extraordinary wildlife, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts on +44 020 8547 2305 or via email: [email protected]asafaris.com