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Home of leopards
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Londolozi is just about my favourite place. No where else could six hours a day in a car be so enjoyable. The time not spent on game drives is equally magical. Great food, amazing staff and endless activities: from football with the guys in the village, to yoga, massages on the deck, tree-top dining and dinner under the stars in the boma. And all of this out in the middle of the bush. Every time I leave I can’t wait to get back. This was my third trip to Londolozi Varty Camp, and I’ll be back again soon – but not soon enough! Every visit and every game drive offers something different; this time it was the greens of Autumn for the first time. Ranger Alfie and Tracker Shadrack are a great team, bursting with knowledge and humour, another key ingredient to making every drive an unforgettable experience.
Londolozi is known for its leopards and in this regard it has never disappointed. It was great to see the Mashaba female and her 10 month old cub, having seen her last year when she had two very young cubs, and a couple of years before, again with two young cubs. As a repeat visitor I’m really enjoying getting to know some of the leopards that make Londolozi their home. The rangers’ fantastic knowledge and regular blog updates really help to keep the experience going year after year. On this trip we were also treated to wild dogs and the elusive male cheetah that has territory in the south of Londolozi.
Pictures can not portray the feeling of getting up close to these animals in the bush, but the following few images are some of my highlights that will have to keep me going until I’m able to return!
The Mashaba female prepares to hunt as the heat of the day fades, her cub safely hidden away for now. 1/640 sec at f5.0, ISO 2500.
A Giant kingfisher surveys the waterhole just outside camp. 1/640 sec at f5.6 ISO 1250.
Less than an hour after the first image, the Mashaba female hides in a dense thicket with a young waterbuck kill. 1/125 sec at f4.0 ISO 12800.
Shortly after sunrise, one of the brothers from the Matimba coalition rests near the den site of the Tsalala pride mother and daughter pair. 1/800 sec at f5.6 ISO 1250.
The Mashaba female and her 10-month old cub enjoy a moment together after finishing up the previous night’s waterbuck kill. 1/1000 sec at f5.6 ISO 2000.
The Mashaba female’s cub reflected in the morning light as she washes down her meal with a drink at the nearby waterhole. 1/1250 sec at f4.5 ISO 200.
The Mashaba cub sets off for a stroll in the morning sunshine after finishing her drink. 1/2000 sec at f4.5 ISO 160.
The Mashaba female uses a low tree to keep an eye on her increasingly independent young cub. 1/500 sec at f4.0 ISO 800.
One of the brothers from the Matshipiri coalition stretches his legs after feasting on a wildebeest. 1/1250 sec at f4.5 ISO 640.
An elephant bull caked in mud ambles along behind a breeding herd. 1/800 sec at f5.6 ISO 400.
My favourite male leopard of Londolozi, the Piva male, starts his late afternoon patrol. 1/800 sec at f5.6 ISO 3200.
Wild dogs congregate following a successful morning. Two impala should keep them satisfied till the next hunt. 1/800 sec at f5.0 ISO 1250.
This wild dog keeps a watch on the growing number of hyenas gathering, hoping to steal any left overs. 1/800 sec at f5.6 ISO 2000.
As the light fades, a young cub of the Sparta pride enjoys an entrée of fly-infested kudu before moving on to suckle on mum’s protein-rich milk. 1/800 sec at f5.6 ISO 6400.
The Sparta pride settles down to relax after a good kudu meal. This cub isn’t quite ready for his bedtime. 1/800 sec at f4.0 ISO 3200.
This Sparta lioness calls an end to feeding time despite protests from the little ones. 1/800 sec at f5.6 ISO 12800.
The rarely seen male cheetah rests on a termite mound waiting for potential prey to wander into range. A whole herd of wildebeest – complete with some cheetah-sized youngsters – passed very close by, but apparently he was not in the mood to hunt just yet. 1/1000 sec at f5.6 ISO 250.
One of several hyenas looks on longingly at a leopard kill lying out of reach in the branches of a tree. 1/500 sec at f4.0 ISO 800.
The somewhat shy 4:4 male rests before returning to finish his impala safely stowed in a nearby tree. Monkey alarm calls helped us to work out where he was hiding. 1/500 sec at f4.0 ISO 2000.
A young elephant practices his trumpet call as he charges our jeep before returning to the safety of his mum. 1/200 sec at f4.0 ISO 20000.
Taken with Canon 5D Mkiii and Canon 200-400 F4L 1.4 apart from the last image, which was shot with a Sony A7Rii and Sony 70-200 F4.
Written and photographed by Ian and Lisa Wilson, Londolozi Guest