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Home of leopards
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The beauty of Londolozi is that it draws people from all walks of life together through a shared passion for nature. Jacqui Hemphill, Londolozi’s Head of Sales, started as a camp manager here in 2007, and then after a brief time away, returned to head up the Sales Division. Being based in Johannesburg, Jacqui doesn’t get down to the bush as often as she would like these days, but her job fortunately requires her to visit the lodge every couple of months or so. Not one to miss an opportunity, Jax jumps on every game drive she can to further hone her photographic skills (she has won competitions for her work), and often joins Amy and I when we head out to film.
Jax and I have shared some memorable sightings at Londolozi together, but our recent one of the Nanga female and her cub has to be the best by a long way. In fact I would go as far as to say it was one of my top leopard sightings ever! For over an hour we watched as the two leopards chased each other through the sands of the Manyelethi rivebed, across boulders and up and down trees.
The sighting itself was utter magic, but the fact that it was just us two friends enjoying it together made it that much more special. With over 2000ha to ourselves on the northern side of the Sand River that morning, it was an incredible privilege spending time in the company of the two leopards, and highlighted how lucky we are to do what we do.
With the long grass of summer very prevalent across the Nanga female’s territory, we were lucky to have the two leopards in a dry riverbed, where the viewing was much more open.
The female and her cub near a pool in the Manyelethi riverbed where they have been spending a lot of time. Dense thickets and rocky banks in the area allow the cub many hiding places when her mother goes off hunting. Photograph by Jacqui Hemphill
Constant games of cat and mouse allow the cub to hone its skills of stalking and pouncing. Photograph by Jacqui Hemphill
The Nanga female, still relatively young herself, seems more than happy to indulge her cub in these games. Photograph by James Tyrrell
The cub lopes across the sands of the Manyelethi. Photograph by Jacqui Hemphill
The Nanga female was born to the Nyelethi 4:4 female in 2009 as part of a litter of three.
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The flehmen grimace is usually employed by adult leopards testing the scent of another individual in the area, be it a rival or a potential mate. The cub displaying the behaviour here is more than likely just a case of it practicing on the scent of its mother. Photograph by James Tyrrell
At this young age, the bushveld environment is full of opportunities for exploration and learning. The cub moved up and down this little rocky outcrop repeatedly, chewing sticks and branches and playing with balls of elephant dung. Photograph by James Tyrrell
Playing with objects like this ball of elephant dung gives the cub an opportunity to strengthen its muscles, flex its claws and hone its reflexes. Photograph by Jacqui Hemphill
A slow stalk towards its mother as the sun backlights the cub’s whiskers. Photograph by James Tyrrell
It’s difficult for a leopard mother to get a moment’s peace, especially when raising a single cub. Two or three cubs will spend a lot of time paying with each other, but a single cub only has its mother to play with and potentially annoy. Photograph by Jacqui Hemphill
Leopards are remarkably agile animals. Here the female leaps up and over in an attempt to avoid a swipe from her cub. Photograph by James Tyrrell
Constant games of chase and catch are beneficial for both individuals. Photograph by James Tyrrell
Even though they are officially described as solitary animals, there is nevertheless a very strong bond between a mother leopard and her cub(s) during the early months of the cub’s life. Photograph by Jacqui Hemphill
I’m not sure if the cub was imitating its mother in this photo and the next, but there was still some wonderful symmetry between the two leopards. Photograph by James Tyrrell
Long tongues make for effective grooming agents. Photograph by James Tyrrell
An irritated cub snarls at its mother to get off it. Photograph by Jacqui Hemphill
Cubs have a lot of energy, but still need to rest from time to time. Photograph by James Tyrrell
James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...