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This is Brigitte Bernard’s story about how she traveled to Africa to fulfill a childhood dream and got ‘the shot’ while doing it.


A Little Kid Who Dreamed of Leopards

As a teenager, I loved anything leopard. I loved their pattern and the feeling of their fur. And I enjoyed seeing them in zoos and on TV. So, after graduating from college as a professional photographer, I had it on my bucket list to visit Africa one day.

Last year, I was finally able to go. As a photographer this was a dream come true.

I had always wanted to see a leopard in the wild and this was finally my opportunity to do so. I decided to use my existing skill set and volunteer my time as a photographer within the Greater Kruger area in South Africa.

Also see: A Day in the Life of a Volunteer Photographer in South Africa

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My Childhood Dream Becomes a Reality

I was initially disappointed during the first three weeks of my safari drives as, despite many amazing sightings, I still had not seen the elusive leopard once. It was definitely my “long journey”.

Thankfully, patience and persistence paid off and within the last week of my stay we spotted a male leopard during a night drive, just for a minute, calling his mate.

The sound was profound and breathtaking.

Unfortunately, I was not able to successfully get a good shot of him. I was so excited to see one that photography went out the window! I decided to enjoy the moment of seeing this beautiful animal in his home.

We spent the following days trying to locate the leopard once again, and although we didn’t find him, we were successful in finding another one – a female leopard resting in the tall grass.

It was hard to see her at first because she was lying down on her side. I waited impatiently with my camera ready, thinking to myself, “I will get this shot”. Eventually, after an hour sitting in the jeep, my wish was granted – she finally woke up and stared at us.

I clicked away until she moved off.

My eyes filled with tears looking at the photos afterwards – I had my perfect shot!

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This photograph was selected as Photo of the Day on BBC Wildlife Magazine

The Experience Changed Me

Seeing her was a magical moment. It felt like she was looking through my soul and I thanked her with a smile. So many emotions were running through me.

I was unbelievably happy. My goal of coming to Africa had been achieved.

I also made a promise to myself that I would protect these animals as much as I could.

Leopards are intelligent and independent creatures of the night. They’re beautiful, fierce, and famously elusive, which is probably why people are so fascinated by them. I was one of those people.

A leopard was my dream pet. I said to myself “One day, if I am rich, I will buy one!

But Africa changed my mind and beliefs about wildlife.

After seeing these unique and precious animals in the wild, I have a new respect for them, and I now wish no animal of any kind to be caged.

My close encounter in South Africa changed me and I will return to this wonderful country one day.

Brigitte Bernard

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Join one of our Wildlife Photography volunteer programs and use your skills and photographs to impact wildlife conservation!