Generally speaking there are two different types of guides-those that are in it for the long haul and will make a career of it, and those that are here for a few years of bush experience. I came to Londolozi on 15 January 2009, fresh out three years of articles and board exams with KPMG in Johannesburg, intending to form part of the latter group and spend two years here before returning to the “real world”. Within an hour of arriving we had been packed off to spend our first week of training largely fending for ourselves out in the bush. Now, three years later, I have finally decided to head back into finance, albeit still at Londolozi!
Rather than my normal Leopard’s of Londolozi post, I have decided to sift through three years of photo’s, and the next three weeks will feature shots of each of my years here, starting of course with 2009. It was tough to narrow down, but I have tried to not just select my best photo’s, but rather a combination of that, as well as those that for me represent some of my most memorable sightings and experiences. Fortunately by being based at Londolozi I will still be able to get out into the bush quite often, so I am sure there will be the occasional “Blog From The Finance Office”, although with a title like that I am not convinced of it’s ability to draw viewers! Until then though, enjoy year one…
Many guests will be familiar with the enormous Natal Mahogany tree situated in the Dudley Riverbank area. This was the first time I had ever seen the tree, and sure enough the Dudley Riverbank Female obliged by lying on one of its old branches. She had both a duiker and an impala hoisted in the tree with her. For three years I frequently drove to that tree, often stopping for morning coffee in its shade, but have never again seen a leopard in its branches.
This was one of those shots where you don't actually realise what you took until you look later, and I was very happy to have captured this moment between an elephant mother and calf.
Londolozi is famous for its leopards, but on very special occasions a cheetah may be seen. Not renowned for their climbing ability, this male confounded the text books and sprung up the three meter high vertical trunk of this marula for a better view.
Not a great photo but a sighting that I will not forget in a hurry. The Maxabene 3:2 Young male, at this stage not much older than a year, had caught this unfortunate young duiker. He then took, still very much alive, up the tree and wedged hit in a branch. Its distress call soon attracted the Maxabene Female who had left her sons some distance apart to go hunting. The duiker managed to wriggle free and fell to the ground, stunned. Leopard mothers generally don't teach their cubs to hunt, but on this occasion she nuzzled the stunned duiker to wake it, called her son down the tree and lay on a fallen branch, watching him play with the duiker for some time before he finally figured out how to kill it. It was a tough sighting to watch as the duiker clearly suffered, but served as a reminder of the harshness of life out here.
Captured completely by accident, it really does look like this guy has pulled his ears to the side and stuck his tongue out especially for the camera!
The price of growing up-as 2009 progressed and the Maxabene brothers matured, their mom became increasingly aggressive towards any attempts at affection by them, letting them know that it is time to move on.
Another bizarre sighting from the Mxabenes' - the female had killed this enormous python, which had itself previously eaten a young nyala. Here the two young males enact a game of tug-of-war for the best part of the meal.
One of my favorite sunrise photo's-taken during our training during early 2009 on a misty morning on Fluffy's Clearing
Another one from our time training, this was my first experience of a leopard on foot. We had been following tracks with the expert help of Solly Mhlongo, when suddenly the cub poked its head out of some long grass onto the road up ahead. the photo was taken from the vehicle a few minutes later, but it was a truly exhilarating experience for someone who just a few weeks earlier had been sitting behind a desk in a Johannesburg office! The cub on the right has grown up to become the Vomba Young Female and is still a firm favorite of mine.
This is one of the many sightings in this series that were shared with Alan and Sue Prince, who I had the pleasure of driving a number of times during the past three years and who have a knack of being here for all the best sightings!. This is the last time I saw the Xidulu Young Male, who dispersed for good soon after this sighting.
The Vomba Female walks along Londolozi's western boundary road. Since the arrival territorially speaking of the Tutlwa Female (her daughter), this area no longer forms a part of her territory, with her progeny taking over.
This was my first sighting of the Nyaleti Female's three cubs who we now all know so well. Despite the grass covering their faces it is still one of my favorite shots
Again a case of a branch ruining the shot, but still an unusual one to have three tiny leopard cubs all in the same frame. What is even more unusual is that all three of these cubs were raised to independence and are still seen on Londolozi today, over two years later.