This week started off beautifully with some fantastic sightings of the Sparta Pride and their new cubs, a pack of Wild Dogs crossing the Sand River and an unknown Female Leopard in the North. The Majingilane Males were seen interacting with the Sparta Pride cubs which bodes well for the future considering the dynamic which played out last year with the young Tsalala Cub. By Monday, however, it had started raining. Two solid days of rain saw the Sand River rising to flood levels previously unseen in decades gone by. Fortunately Londolozi was not too badly hit by the floods and the sun appears to have come out, drying both the lodge and the wildlife. Enjoy this week in pictures…
The two Sparta Pride cubs play with a twig whilst their mother rests in the background. Growing at a rapid rate, these cubs are gaining more and more of an adventurous and curios streak which sees them investigating every aspect of their surrounding environment.
It is not often that we get the opportunity to view the Ximungwe Pride. Their territory falls lies quite far west of our break and are thus infrequently seen by our guiding & tracking team. When we sighted them on this particular morning, it was the perfect opportunity to capture and image of one of the pride's lioness and her cub.
With their penchant for covering large distances on a daily basis, only large obstacles such as the Sand River will slow down the pack of Wild Dogs. The characteristically big ears intently listening for strange sounds and clues, it was only a matter of minutes before the pack decided to go straight through the river and continue their journey north.
It is interesting to see the tipping points in a pack of Wild Dogs. Once the first member had taken the plunge into the water, closely followed by the second, the remaining member of the pack all ran headlong into the water not wanting to be left behind.
Safely on the other side, this member stopped for a brief moment, ears pricked forward, allowing me to capture this portrait.
Male Weavers spend hours building their nest in order to impress the potential female mates. More often than not, the female will fly along and strip the nest bare if she is not happy with the quality of the build. Clearly this male was too focused on getting it right the first time to notice our presence close by.
There is an unrelaxed female leopard who spends much of her time on the Marula Crests in Marthly. We were fortunate enough to have a brief sighting of her delicately perched in a Marula tree. Eyeing us out and clearly, still uneasy, about being viewed she soon descended down the trunk of the tree and melted off into the brush.
A Steenbok looks and listens in the tall grass. Hiding & camouflage are their primary means of defense again predators and given their large hindquarters, they will crouch down in the bushes, barely moving a muscle before exploding away at speed should a predator come near to them. This tactic of explosive speed serves them well against many predators who cannot match their speed over short distances.
One of the Sparta Pride cubs walks towards us. The beautiful dappled spots on his legs should lose their intensity over the next few months and fade into tawny markings. It is always such a pleasure to watch these cubs grow and progress in a seemingly stable pride environment.
The darkness of the night is when the Majingilane Males are most active. The dusk has just turned into darkness when we flipped on the spotlight and captured this image of one of the males staring intently into the night.
The next morning we realized why as the Sparta Pride and cubs had joined up with one of the Majingilane Males. The cubs were playful and inquisitive, spending much of their time jumping on the big male.
True to form, he tolerated their presence for a while and then snarled his disapproval at this cub who scampered away.
One of the lionesses was obviously not impressed with the males behavior and promptly walked over to swat him. Much to his consternation she succeeded causing him to leap back in fright. If you look to the left of the photograph, you will see the young cub watching the dynamic unfold with obvious fascination and fright.
Perhaps she was scowling at the cub for upsetting the male or for something else, either which way this young lion certainly learnt a new lesson about pushing the tolerance boundaries of the pride members. As Freddie mentioned to me, however, it is very encouraging to see how the Sparta Lionesses have accepted this Majingilane Male into their pride allowing time and exposure for both the male and the cubs to occur.
An enormous hippo yawns exposing his large teeth.
Although these are not my images, I felt I could not leave out a few pictures of the floods that came down the Sand River over the last few days. This picture is of Granite Room 3 Plunge Pool. Typically the river flows behind the tree line in the background of the picture.
A view from Tree Camp Deck. For a lodge built around Leopards, Leadwoods and Orchids this raised deck had a much closer river view than usual. You will see the northern banks of Marthly far in the background of the picture.
And lastly, a view from Varty Camp Deck.