As March comes to an end, so do the blisteringly hot days of summer at Londolozi. The season has definitely eased into the early annals of Autumn and the once overgrown grass of the January floods have steadily been grazed down by the herbivore species. March has provided fantastic game viewing, interesting lion dynamics and constant change as always. With Easter around the corner and the excitement of the Winter Calendar almost upon, its time to reflect on the month that was before we look forward into the future. Enjoy this month in pictures..
Once a month, the full moon rises just as the sunsets on the opposite horizon. This time we caught it at Taylors Crossing, easing its ways into the night sky whilst the Sand River flows beneath.
Going out on a game drive with Master Tracker Freddy Ngobeni on the front left trackers seat is always an inspiring adventure. Along with Talley, the two of them seem to track and find animals out of thin air, spot tiny birds nests in the dense scrub and generally impart with you with an enlightened understanding of this vast wilderness.
The Majingilane Males spent alot of time with the Sparta Pride this month. Very exciting to see this previously diminished pride go from strength to strength. With all the mating taking place, we hope to see numerous cubs born into what is now a very stable territory in central Londolozi for these males.
A fresh new scar for this warrior. We speculated for day what could have cause this and still have no answers. Whether it was a branch that caught him whilst running or a bite from a female, the pinpoint scar on his forehead will serve as yet another key identifying feature of the Hip Scar Majingilane Male.
The Marthly Male continues to hold a massive territory through much of Marthly and just south of the Sand River. His torn ear indicative of his aggressive and domineering personality, this male leopard is never far from the action, particularly when there are females around.
The recently renamed Mashaba Female idles in the long grass as she patiently watches a nearby herd of impala. As she continues to be successful in her newly established territory, the next phase of her life will see new challenges and threats as she steadily matures into motherhood.
A lioness from the Sparta pride watches her growing cubs. With the Southern Pride taking over territory in the western sector and the two remaining Mapogos on the run, she will be grateful that her cubs hold the genes and protection of the dominant Majingilane Coalition.
Marthly has been very wet and inaccessible since the floods of January 2012. Access to Marthly River road was finally opened this month and with it returned this spectacular viewing point of the Sand River.
The endangered Saddle Billed Stork is a frequent visitor to Londolozi. A mating pair is often seen around the pans looking for frogs and small fish. In 2009 it was estimated that there are approximately 60 of these birds left in the Kruger National Park, a fact which makes us appreciate how lucky we are to continually experience and appreciate this magnificent bird.
The female Saddle Billed Stork taking off after feeding along with the above male.
One of the Sparta pride cub stares at the approaching Majingilane male with a mischievous glint in his eye. The relationship between these cubs and the Majingilane is reassuring and entertaining to watch. Unlink the tension between the males and the Tsalala pride, these cubs are playful with the males, who will humor them up to a point.
One of the Sparta lionesses offers a close up photograph of her face. The big scratch between her eyes will be used as a key identifying feature whenever she is spotted.
The Vomba Female in all her beauty. If you look closely you will see that her right eye has a distinctive line in the iris. I am not sure how she received this feature or if it was an accident of sorts. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below if you do know or have any theories about this.
The Scar Nosed Majingilane male watches the horizon at Sunset. A short distance away, the Dark maned male mates with the Sparta Lioness whilst the Hip Scarred Male listends to his vocalisations, obviously perturbed by the entrenched hierarchy. Perhaps this is what dominance and power actually is - glorious, striking and bold on the outside; yet jealous, maligned and insecure on the interior.
A final send off. The powerful thunderstorms of an African bushveld summer are incredible forces of nature to witness and offer amazing opportunities for photography. This particular electric storm has all but surrounded us before we packed up our gear and raced home, just in time to avoid being completely drenched.
After the darkness...light. A golden ray of sunlight bursts through the clouds at sunset. Perhaps its another reminder, another metaphor that with the bad, comes the good, with the nights so to days and the with seasons the years. The natural world is fixed into a constant cycle of change that can be cruel in its chaos yet beautiful in its rebirth. The change of this season signalled the change of an era and the ever shifting trends and counter trends that make this wild world so dynamic. As the balmy winter approaches, one can only wonder what the future will hold for all of us as we continue to live in our own changing and chaotic worlds...
Photographed by: Rich Laburn