This “purple patch” that I have heard about lately in the Londolozi blogs is quite a remarkable phenomenon not just experienced by the tracker and ranger teams but by guests as well. This purple patch is an unpredictable run of absolutely amazing sightings. During my many stays at Londolozi I have experienced this magic time and time again. This allows me the ability to sit back and relax, knowing that at just the right moment I will see what I am meant to see. It is as if out of nowhere a curtain is drawn back and you become the audience with a front row seat to a unique, once-in-a-lifetime show that brings about emotions as unpredictable as the sighting itself. But on this last trip in April, on my last day and on my last drive with what began as plan C, I experienced a patch that was undeniably purple.

When it comes to successful drives there is most certainly an element of skill, cooperation and patience but luck and timing are huge too. What is visible and wonderful one minute, could vanish in an instant.

Ranger James Souchon, Tracker Richard Mthabini, Ranger in training at the time, Guy Brunskill and I were sitting in the car park of Founder’s Camp after our quick cup of coffee on the deck -my bean bag set for my camera, a warm plaid blanket for a bit of warmth on the cool damp morning and all we needed was a plan. We began to discuss our options for our last morning drive together. There were no other guests in the vehicle (a little patch of purple right there) so it was up to us (me) to decide. Plan A, Plan B, nothing is striking me. I have had five days of incredible sightings. There isn’t anything I can think of except to have a relaxing morning and find a special place for a last morning coffee stop. Just then James says something that made my ears perk up… “How about we go back to where we last spotted the Nanga leopard and her cub near the Manyalethi River?” Something inside me knew it was the right plan. I hastily agreed and off we went with the night air still hanging in the sky.
As we drove away, James asked if I had a last request for any sighting, what would it be? I didn’t have to think too hard; it was seeing a leopard in a tree for sure. This has always been one of my favourite scenes. I had seen many sightings of leopards and their cubs on this trip but I hadn’t had an unobstructed view yet because of the tall grasses at this time of year. “Oh yes, and one more thing actually,” I said. “I’d like to see a herd of elephants coming down to the river for a drink and to see them cross.” Those two requests came quickly to me as if I had prepared them ahead of time.
We crossed the river west of Pioneer Camp and proceeded towards where we last saw the Nanga female and her cub. Rich spotted some leopard tracks and he, James and Guy jumped off the vehicle, rifle and radio in hand to look for some more signs. They turned up the radio and told me to listen for updates from them. I sat contentedly as the sun remained below the horizon, beautiful colours beginning to appear. Not even ten minutes later, James called on the radio telling me that when Guy returned I should have him turn the vehicle around and pick him and Rich up as they had just heard the sounds of a leopard. Just as they got in the vehicle a herd of elephants appeared at the tree line in the distance, heading for the river. We sat and waited as the large breeding herd proceeded towards us at a rapid clip, as if they were alarmed.

rangers, walking, Irene

James, Rich and Guy heading off to follow up on the leopard tracks. Whilst they were away I was entertained by the ever-changing colours of the horizon.

James said, “It’s a risk but they are probably going to cross and if we want to, we could race back across the river and anticipate the path that they likely to drink at and cross from”. It sounded like a good idea to me so off we raced back down the embankment and across the water. Moments after we positioned at the river, one elephant appeared at the cliff beside the river bank and headed down towards the water. Soon small groups of the herd follow close behind, some stopping to drink while others just splashed their way across the water. What a breathtaking view for sunrise!

elephants, Sand River, Irene Nathanson

The breeding herd of elephants that we were lucky enough to see drinking at and then crossing the river. The first of my three wishes for the morning granted.

After that we headed back to the location of the leopard calls. No obvious tracks were seen but Rich decided to jump off the vehicle to look a bit closer. Just as he did, we noticed something move in the grass off to the left, not far from where Rich was standing. Amazingly enough, it was the Nanga female leopard waiting to cross the road to retrieve the remains of her kill that she had stashed in a tree. The speculation was that she had stolen it back from a hyena who had grabbed it from her during the night. She crossed and climbed up the small dead tree to fetch what was left of the carcass. And who pops out beside her? Her little cub! The mother then began to drag her prize to a new location through a thicket next to the dry Manyalethi Riverbed farther down from where she was last spotted. James Tyrrell and Amy Attenborough were sitting in the dry riverbed waiting to see if she was going to come out the other side but she stopped in the thicket line to feed on her kill. Although we knew her cub was with her, it was last seen heading into a thick bush and we couldn’t get a good view.

nanga, female leopard, Irene Nathanson

The first view we had of the Nanga female leopard as she poked her head around from her hiding spot. It was incredibly fortuitous that we stopped to check for tracks in this exact spot.

nanga, female leopard, Irene Nathanson

The Nanga female’s cub as she runs with a piece of the carcass in her mouth. The speculation was that the leopards had managed to steal their kill back from a clan of hyenas.

nanga, female leopard, Irene Nathanson

Soon after this, we lost sight of the leopards in very thick bush.

Nanga 4:3 Female
2009 - present

The Nanga female was born to the Nyelethi 4:4 female in 2009 as part of a litter of three.

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13 sightings by Members

Nanga 4:3 Female

Saseka Female
26 stories
2 known
4 known

We decided to leave her and go off to have our last morning coffee with what has been promised to be a stunning view. We parked on the trail and hiked up to a large set of granite boulders, overlooking the river and koppie off to the left. Guy and Rich prepared our Chocmochas (a delicious blend of French press coffee, hot chocolate and amarula) and cookies and brought them up the boulders. We relaxed and enjoyed our last morning together and packed up to see what else we can find.
granite boulders, coffee stop, Irene Nathanson

A photograph of me at the top of the granite boulders where we stopped for our morning coffee break. The second of my hopes now in the bag.

James, Rich and Guy on their way up to meet me with my favourite drink; something I like to call a Chocmocha. It’s a blend of hot chocolate and coffee with a splash of amarula to give it a kick.

James souchon, ranger, Irene Nathanson

Ranger James Souchon reaching the summit with drinks in hand.

Just as we got going, Ranger Grant Rodewijk contacted James to say that they had found a pack of thirteen wild dogs who we got to spend a few short moments with. As is typical of dogs, they were gone in a blink but it’s always a huge treat to see these painted wolves.

wild dogs, Irene Nathanson,

A pack of wild dogs or painted wolves that we managed to see briefly. These animals move huge distances at very high speeds and can sometimes disappear in the blink of an eye.

Just as they disappeared, we got a call from Grant to say that he’d relocated Nanga and her cub in the tree beside the dry riverbedNot only did I get a leopard in a tree but I got a leopard in a tree with her cub. Just then a light mist began. There wasn’t much room for two vehicles but we managed pretty well and got situated to take some last photos of this beautiful mother and cub resting with their legs draped across a tree limb.

nanga, female leopard, Irene Nathanson

The Nanga female with her cub draped on the limb of a leadwood tree. This was the most incredible way to end my safari.

Nanga leopard, cub, Irene Nathanson

The Nanga female looks towards some hyenas sniffing around the base of the trees, hoping to find a scrap. You can actually see where the bark has been removed from the tree as this leopard’s claws dug in whislt hoisting her kill.

 Nanga leopard, cub, Irene Nathanson

It always astonishes me how comfortable a leopard can make any branch look, despite the precarious angles they find themselves in.

Nanga leopard, cub, Irene Nathanson

The Nanga female lifts her head to scan the surrounds. Once her kill is hoisted in a tree like this, her only real threat of losing it comes from a male leopard.

Nanga leopard, cub, Irene Nathanson

I couldn’t quite believe that all three of my wishes had been granted. It was a purple patch for sure!

I literally got everything I hoped for and just in time. A purple patch I’ll never forget.

Filed under Wildlife

Involved Leopards

Nanga 4:3 Female

Nanga 4:3 Female

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About the Author

Irene Nathanson

Guest contributor

Originally from New York USA currently living in the Sunshine state of Florida in the Tampa Bay area. My first trip to Africa was in 2009 when I visited Botswana and Zambia. My first trip to Sabi Sands South Africa was in 2011. ...

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on My Purple Patch

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Ian Hall

Even by Londolozi standards , those are cracking photos.

Irene Nathanson

Thank you so much Ian

Franki De La Vega

Loved reading this, Irene! James and Rich were our ranger/tracker team as well, and this brought back some great memories. Although we had amazing sightings on every drive with them, we did have one rainy afternoon purple patch that sticks out – we set out to track lions and ran into a heard of 30+ elephants, a leopard right along side our van, our first rhinos of the trip, and eventually the pride of lions. And we’d almost skipped the drive altogether because of the weather!

Irene Nathanson

Frankie thank you for your comment. First rule of safaris .. never miss s drive. I went out after a hail storm once on a private drive with Trevor and saw Tsalala lions curled up in the wet grass a beautiful sighting. You never know nature is always got a show playing even if nobody is there to watch

Lucie Easley

Thanks for sharing your amazing photos from your purple patch and awaking many memories of my own. I dream of visiting Londolozi.

Irene Nathanson

You are welcome. I love to share this wonderful place and the nature that inhabits the land

Denise Vouri

Great story! I had a similar experience in Sabi Sand with all three of your wishes sans the cub. In February they were weeks old and still hidden in the rocks. Nice photos.

Irene Nathanson

Thank you. Always happy to hear others stories

Gillian Evans

It’s amazing how these purple patches happen at Londolozi! How lovely to get such beautiful clear shots of Nanga with her cub in the tree! What camera/lens were you using?

Judy Boch

Great Blog! We will be in Londolozi in a few weeks and are hoping we see our ‘purple patch’!

Irene Nathanson

How fantastic! I wonder when you will be there. The weather is great this time of year. I hear there are lots of cubs. Enjoy. I’ll be looking for your blog next. Wishing you lots of Purple!

Michael & Terri Klauber

Irene, Great job on your “purple post!” – how exciting! We have known James since he led us at Phinda a few years ago and he is great! He had some of our group last month too now that he is at Londolozi! So glad he is there now. Can’t wait to share notes soon when you are back on home base in Sarasota!

Irene Nathanson

Thank you Michael! Perhaps someday our travel dates will align. Looking forward to comparing notes. I always follow your posts when you are traveling.

Anthony Goldman

Great stuff as always Irene -Londolozi is indeed a magical place.

Irene Nathanson

Thank you. I have so many wonderful sightings I never know what to share.

Gillian Lacey

Fantastic photos. I wonder if Irene could share with us what kit she uses to capture these images.

Irene Nathanson

Hello Gillian. Thank you for your interest. I used both a Nikon 7200 and 810 with 70-200mm 2.8 and 300mm 2.8

Gillian Lacey

Thanks Irene,
Whilst I’m a Canon user myself I was interested to see the F stop you used on your lenses. F2.8 really helps with the quality of the final image. I shall bear that in mind when we plan our next trip to Londolozi but we have to visit New Zealand to see our family first!

Irene Nathanson

I’m not sure if you are aware but some lenses can be rented at or through Londolozi. It’s much better than carrying a heavy lens while traveling. They also have a great place on property to edit as well as print out canvases to take home as s souvenir. Enjoy New Zealand

Dan Harlacher

Great read Irene! Londo is in the heart and soul of those who dream big! Thanks! Dan

Irene Nathanson

Thank you for your comment. I hope to be there when you are there sometime

Leonie De Young

Lovely purple patch blog Irene. Your pics are fantastic and thanks for sharing with us. What memories you will have of your amazing good fortune and trip.

Irene Nathanson

Thank you Leonor. I’m glad you enjoyed. Always lucky there 🙂

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