For Africa’s ambush predators, patience can mean the difference between a hearty meal or a spoiled hunt. While cheetahs have speed and lions have numbers, leopards – the most solitary of Africa’s big cats – are experts of the sit-and-wait strategy. Few big predators can stage a better ambush than the leopard, as one rosetted stealth-master recently demonstrated in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

The action took place at the De Laporte waterhole in the south of the reserve – an area that has yielded leopard sightings in the past for experienced safari guide Simon Vegter. Eager to show his guests one of Africa’s most elusive felines, Vegter steered his safari vehicle towards a handful of other cars parked beside the drinking hole. “Sure enough, the female leopard was right there,” explains Bryan Mattice, who was on board Vegter’s vehicle at the time.

A herd of impala that had been drinking at the waterhole seemed to pick up on the cat’s presence. Unable to pinpoint the leopard’s location, the antelope unwittingly trotted, one by one, straight towards the hidden predator. Seven impala successfully darted past the small bush that concealed the crouching cat. The eighth was not so fortunate.

“As the anticipation built, we weren't sure if we'd see a successful hunt or not,” Mattice told Latest Sightings. “Once we realized what was about to happen, the adrenaline motivated everyone in our vehicle to stay silent, but have our cameras ready. When the kill took place, it was incredible to watch.”

Explosive hunts like this one are not uncommon for leopards. Although small to medium-sized antelope are the norm, the stealthy cats often use their agility and strength to tackle prey well above their own weight class.

And the impressive displays don't end at the moment of takedown. To keep their spoils safe from rival predators, leopards usually haul larger kills into the treetops in a show of strength unrivalled by other cats. Larger males top the charts for hoisting prowess: a male in South Africa’s Londolozi Private Game Reserve was recorded dining on a treetop meal of giraffe calf – a carcass that weighed over 100 kilograms!