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laikipia wilderness camp black leopard

Black Leopard Photo Safari with Wildlife Photographer, Penny Robartes

Giza Mrembu; a Beautiful Darkness. A truly apt name for a melanistic Leopard whom has captured the attention and dreams of wildlife photographers and naturalists around the globe. As a professional wildlife photographer and international photographic tour leader, I was inexplicably drawn to this cat whose behaviour is as interesting as her aesthetics, from a personal viewpoint as well as from my work’s purpose; to take my guests to Giza’s habitat to view, learn and photograph this dark beauty
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard

In February 2024, I led my second photo tour to Laikipia Wilderness with the greater aim to spend as much time with Giza as she allows. Her allure is tangible and there certainly is an anticipation during each game drive of “will we see her this morning/afternoon/evening?” Leopards hold a certain mysticism in their being as it is; gorgeous, strong spotted cats that are typically shy and almost entirely solitary. Their preference to be alone makes finding one all the more special and captivating, and Giza takes the mysticism and captivation of Leopards to a new level

laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
We first saw Giza on our 3rd night into our safari. We found her in a tree, and while the visual was not a great, we sat and waited for her to come down the tree to begin her evening of hunting. As the last light clung to the sky, she descended. She took my breath away. She always does. She is just ethereal and breathtakingly beautiful, that no matter how many times I have seen her, she continues to make my eyes widen to its maximum as I drink in her form. Her eyes have an inner light that adds to her ethereal quality, as if the moon’s light resides in her being. She is light-footed, sleek.. a lithe beauty. We spent into the early dark hours with her until around 8pm when all vehicles need to leave her to her hunting and night-time movements. We arrived back at camp that evening on a high and I thrilled in seeing my guests light up from this very special encounter.
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard

Although my Black Leopard Photo Safaris are based around Giza, there are other special wildlife species here that we spent time with and created images of.

 

One morning it had started to rain. Soft, fat drops while the golden light hours were in bloom. We came upon a group of Grevy’s Zebra – a true dazzle – looking pretty miserable. I spoke to my guests about the scene, what I was interpreting from it, what I would be looking to capture and how I would go about doing so. There was this solemn energy, so instead of trying to change that, I looked at how to enhance it in my capture.

 

As the herd started to move off towards a nearby thicket, I asked our guide to position us facing the Zebra, and having the sunlight behind them. Why? Because I saw the way the sun light caught in the rain drops and turned a scene of walking Grevy’s Zebra into something quite beautiful and magical. We had a short moment to capture it, so as we moved into position I spoke through the scene with my guests explaining that this isn’t just about the Grevy’s, but the light and the rain, and how to best capture that.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this scene as not only was it a beautiful moment with wildlife, but it was also a good teaching opportunity for me to guide my guests around.

laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard

As the rain ended, we turned our cameras towards electric Vulture Guineafowl busy preening close to us, allowing us to explore the scene photographically in looking at portraits, more abstract captures, and more. This, of course, didn’t just apply to these beautifully-feather birds in general, but to a variety of wildlife species throughout this Kenya photo tour.

laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard

Another morning we went to one of the reserve’s with the aim to find some Elephant herds drinking and bathing in the water. We went when the light was quite harsh and the temperature was hot as this was the time when the breeding herds gathered by the dam. We were treated to some lovely scenes of your Elephant bulls playing with one another in the water (I took video footage of these moments), to a herd gathered quietly together quenching their thirst while some Hippos looked on in disgruntled judgement.

laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard

While Giza is a Leopard that draws everyone to her, she is not the only Leopard that patrols on the reserve as well as close to camp! We had some beautiful, solo experiences with Kisiwa, a gorgeous, big male Leopard around the age of 5/6 years old. Spotlight to soft morning/afternoon light, this boy played to the camera and we were willing participants!

laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard

We saw Giza for 3 out of the 6 nights at Laikipia Wilderness, which is pretty common considering that she is a Leopard, and in this particular instance, we are trying to look for an individual. The spotlight photography allowed us to capture some front lit images of her when she chose to walk towards us, but I wanted to create more alluring lighting opportunities and therefore, images of her for my guests. With another vehicle also spending time with Giza, I asked our guide to not shine our light on Giza and rather allow us to work with the other vehicles spotlight. We all got a collection of images of Giza that, for me, really utilised the creative power of light to show the uniqueness of this cat’s colouring, and how the light brought out her form. Brought light to the darkness.

laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard
laikipia wilderness camp black leopard

If you are interested in joining me on a photo tour where I can guarantee that your photography and wildlife experience will be focused on, then do get in touch!

For a private photo tour to Kenya or anywhere in the world (Yes! Anywhere your heart desires), please get in touch with us at [email protected].

To join me on a small group photo tour to Kenya and beyond, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

Kenya – Black Leopard Photo Tour I 2025Now open for booking. 3 guests only and myself as your dedicated professional Senior Photo Tour Leader.

 

Joins perfectly with my Kenya – Life of Predators Photo Tour 2025 

 

“Go where you feel most alive”

Penny Robartes

 

Penny Robartes is one of ORYX’s Senior Photo Tour Leaders, and has been expertly leading photographers of all levels to Kenya for over a decade. Her knowledge of wildlife and the areas travelled to, combined with the highly-regarded working relationship and camaraderie with local guides used ensures that her guests get the most rewarding and holistic wildlife photographic safari experience.

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