When my day began a few summery mornings ago, I had no idea that I was about to have my most memorable day on Londolozi thus far. I was guiding two South African guests who had grown up in a very similar environment to me. They really enjoyed just sitting and waiting with animals, even if there was not much happening, to watch how the animal’s behaviour changed throughout the drive. The day began rather slowly with my guests wanting to head out and find some rhino. Little did we know how much things were going to heat up (in the literal and metaphorical sense).
The Londolozi landscape offers a variety of vegetation and terrain, such as open grasslands, rocky outcrops, riverine bushveld and mixed woodland, which supports a diverse group of animal species. This particular drive we headed into the southern portion of Londolozi, which is dominated by open grasslands and is the perfect habitat for the grazing white rhino. The morning was already considered a great success when we came around the corner to find a few rhino wallowing in the mud at a waterhole. It was just what the guests had hoped for and the excitement levels escalated.
We sat with the crash as they rolled and frolicked in the mud for about 20 minutes. The large female then made her way out of the muddy pool and over to a fallen tree where she rubbed up against the make-shift scratching post with her young calf following just behind.
While all of us sat entranced by the crash, Shadrack, our tracker, was scanning the surrounding area and pulled off an amazing spot of a leopard walking along one of the roads about 500m away. We quickly headed in his direction as it can be incredibly easy to lose sight of these camouflaged creatures in long grass. This was the first leopard sighting my guests had had at Londolozi. We identified the male leopard to be the Torchwood male, which made the sighting all the more special for me as I had never seen this particular leopard before. He is a male who holds territory falling mostly to the west of Londolozi and he was possibly investigating the option of expanding further eastwards. He walked past our vehicle and we followed him for a while, assuming he was on a territorial patrol but moments after that he started moving with a lot more intent and we came to realize he was on the search for something to eat.
The Torchwood male holds territory falling mostly to the west of Londolozi and is infrequently seen.
Leopards are known as crepuscular animals, which means they are most active during dusk and dawn. This is when they do most of their hunting because they have superb nocturnal vision and have a better chance of moving undetected by prey. Their chances of hunting successfully are thus usually better at night and because of the cooler temperatures they use less energy. We were all intrigued to know if anything had happened despite the heat of the day though, so we headed back to see if we could find him during our afternoon drive.
This is where we all got to see something none of us were expecting…
When we found him, he had in fact made a kill. It was what he had made that startled us so much.
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. That’s an aardvark up in the tree! The look on my guests faces when they realized it was an aardvark said it all. It was a first for all of us, with none of us having seen an aardvark alive before, let alone one that had been hoisted into a tree by a leopard. Aardvarks, a strange looking creature that feeds on ants and termites, are nocturnal animals which are very rarely seen. Guides go many years in the bush without seeing these elusive creatures and now we had both an aardvark and a leopard in the same sighting. Although we felt rather sorry for the caught and now-deceased animal, it was incredibly exciting at the same as it was the furtherest thing from what we expected.
We all sat in awe as this leopard fed on the aardvark. In all likelihood, due to the nocturnal nature of aardvarks, the leopard made this kill the night before and returned to it after a morning of territorial patrol. Interestingly enough he had not fed on much of it though. After watching him feeding for roughly 30minutes, we began to question why there weren’t any hyenas around the base of the tree trying to scavenge pieces potentially dropping to the ground. It wasn’t a minute after we’d uttered the words that the Torchwood male lifted his head and gazed inquisitively past our vehicle where a hyena had just appeared.
It just goes to show that whilst on safari you never know what is going to happen or what awaits you around the next corner. I just hope the next time I see an aardvark, it will be under different circumstances though.