Unlike Africa's other iconic spotted cat, the leopard prefers a well-timed ambush to a speedy chase. And the sit-and-wait strategy plays out perfectly for this lurking predator in South Africa's Kruger National Park. 

The spectacular hunt was caught on camera during a three-day safari at the vast reserve. Tour guide and photographer Mario Paul had taken guests in search of the Big Five, and by late morning only the leopard remained on their wishlist.

Before long, the group was lucky enough to track down a big male cat, and stopped to watch as the animal drank from a nearby waterhole before disappearing into the surrounding reeds. What came next was one seriously epic ambush, recalls Paul in a post for Africa Geographic.

Aside from an ideal hiding spot and impressive camouflage skills, the leopard also had wind direction on his side, making him completely invisible to the two herds of impala that appeared at the waterhole to drink some time later. With impala rutting season in full swing, the male antelope were on the lookout for potential mates.

"A male impala chased one of the females in a bid to try and mate with her," recalls Paul. "Unfortunately, this love story didn’t turn out so well. He chased her straight to where the leopard was lying in ambush."

Despite a last-ditch attempt to jump out of the leopard's reach, the impala couldn't make an escape, and the cat quickly made the kill before dragging off his meal.

"We couldn’t believe what we just witnessed ... An experience that will be remembered forever!" says Paul.


Top header image: Jessica Shippee, Flickr