Well the final week has come and it is with some sadness that I relinquish my regular spot on the blog! It has been an amazing three years guiding and I want to thank all the rangers, trackers (Simon Mathebula and Lucky Shabangu in particular!) Londolozi Staff and guests for making the hours out in the bush so memorable. Whether on official game drives or staff “bumbles”, without the people to share it with the experiences would never be as meaningful. Thanks to Rich Laburn for giving my own spot to put up some of my pictures, and to everyone who takes the time out of their day to look and comment on them as well. I hope everyone enjoys this final post-and until I can accumulate enough photos for for a post from the finance office (which may take a while!) I will revert to being a faithful follower of the blog and the lives of the animals I have come to know so well over the past three years.
A crocodile waits patiently just downstream of the causeway crossing the Sand River, hoping for something to swim between its jaws. This croc was a regular feature of crossing the river and you could predict with some certainty his presence at almost exactly the same spot every time you crossed!
A group of red billed Ox-peckers have a party on the head of a wallowing buffalo cow. This was part of an incredible sighting of a large herd of buffalo and the Southern Pride. Soon after this, in the midday heat, the lions began to hunt the herd.
This section of the pride at the time consisted of five young males (one of which is now dead) and one young female. This young male was a little more adventurous than the rest and almost paid the price. He headed in alone and quickly found himself surrounded, his only refuge this low fallen tree. An angry buffalo bull faces up to him. This was one of a number of memorable sightings we had on a twelve hour game drive on the photographic vehicle that day.
This is from a different sighting of the same portion of the Southern Pride. The young female constantly punched above her weight, perhaps spurred on by her physically stronger brothers. Here she makes an unsuccessful attempt to bring down a big buffalo cow
The four older Tsalala Cubs (born at the beginning of 2011) look on at a group of rutting impala rams. The pride spent some weeks in the vicinity of Ximpalampala Koppie during the rutting season. It is prime territory for an impala ram and many of them gather there to fight for the best areas. They are so fixated on competing with each other, that they become relatively easy prey, ensuring that only the strongest and sharpest of them get to survive and breed.
There is quite a lot of friendly competition amongst the guides when it comes to photography. Here, however, I actually felt truly sorry for Richard Ferrier, the guide in the photo. After following two of the Majingilane males for some time we realized they were going to cross the river. We looped up ahead of them in order to watch their approach and crossing, and while we were waiting, Rich mentioned that he had been waiting seven years to get a shot like this! Unfortunately his faulty battery went flat after just one shot-the look on his face in this picture as he watches the second male cross says it all. It is one of those mornings where you remind yourself that sometimes it is good just to take it all in. We really can get too fixated on what we see through a viewfinder, and forget to sit back and just enjoy it for what it is.
This was funnily enough taken in the same sighting as the previous shot. We had positioned ourselves for the lion's approach, when this elephant bull decided he was going the other way before they arrived.
A little over six months later I was lucky enough to witness a similar crossing at the same point, this time heading in the other direction. The distinctive scarred nose of the leading male makes him instantly recognizable as one of the Majingilane Males
Londolozi's "Open Areas" are very different in appearance from the vast majority of the surrounding terrain. As the name suggests, it is characterised by few trees, long grass and beautiful views. If you can get down there before the sun is up it can present some beautiful photographic opportunities, particularly if there are some elephants to add to the scenery.
There are a number of pans in the southeast of Londolozi that are small and shallow and often play host to a displaced hippo bull, forced to take refuge in what is by no means a prime spot for a hippo after losing his grasp on his territory. We spotted this bull on his way back to Tortoise Pan. Usually if they are approached out of water their first instinct is to run for cover or water. This male though was surprisingly calm, lumbering up towards us before easing back into the comfort of the cool water. Although he was by no means aggressive, he does seem to have a seriously angry face!
Speaking to guides who have been at Londolozi for many years, there were times when a wild dog sighting was a once a year occurrence. Although sightings are by no means frequent now, I was fortunate that during my time there was a pack that was largely resident in the Sabi Sand, resulting in far more regular sightings of these phenomenal hunters. Here five of the pups from the 2011 litter nervously take a drink from a shallow pan, knowing full the well the affinity of crocodiles for water and an easy meal.
Quite an apt shot considering Adam's last post. An inquisitive White Rhino calf trots up to investigate the vehicle. Unfortunately these animals are being poached at a rate of one every eighteen hours in South Africa alone. Some people have been of the opinion that w should not even post pictures of these animals so as not to draw attention to them and their whereabouts. However I feel a post like Adam's does far more good than harm in forcing them and their plight into the forefront of the minds of people who feel as strongly about their continued conservation as ourselves.
After some time taking photos and learning about your camera, you are able to experiment a little with different techniques. This motion blur technique is one I tried a few times and very seldom got right, with this probably being my favorite of the lot of an impala ewe in full stride.
Just after heavy summer rains there is often an emergence of termite alates. They leave the colony in order to start a new one, with the softened soil aiding their cause. However they are not particularly good flyers and provide and easy, protein rich meal for many of the birds, ranging in size from the tiny Yellow Fronted Canary to the enormous Steppe Eagle. Here, a Grey Hornbill gets in on the act,about to snap up another alate.
A Horned Hopper sits camouflaged on a fallen branch. We were having a braai (barbeque) with a number of rangers and trackers in the Maxabene drainage line when I noticed this little guy sitting quietly behind us.
A menacing looking Martial Eagle keeps watch for prey from an open perch. Their favorite menu item is the monitor lizard, but they will take prey the size of a young impala if the opportunity presents itself
A White Rhino Bull awaits the first morning rays of sun. I am by no means a morning person, but when scenes like this are part of the daily routine of your job, then getting up before sunrise isn
Over time, nature shows you a few weird and wonderful things, none more so than this impala ram's strange horn configuration. Likely born with this defect, it hasn't hindered him in anyway and he has been seen a number of times. This is also a perfect example of evolution at work (although it usually works in far smaller increments!)-a birth "defect" turns out to be beneficial and is passed on. Should he be slightly more successful than other impala due in some way to his horns, his genes would be more likely to be passed on. Come back in a few million years and maybe all impala will have horns like this!
This was a sighting I was fortunate enough to spend with my brother and my mom. We noticed a number of vultures roosting together and soon found one of the Majingilane males on a buffalo kill. Whilst waiting for him to wake up I managed, almost by accident, to capture this shot of a vulture as it flew across the setting sun.
Ximpalampala Koppie and the Tsalala Pride are synonymous for many guests and rangers. The pride's females have used the shelter of the rocks as an ideal den site for their cubs on almost every occasion they have given birth. Here two of the four older cubs (2011) look out over their new home soon after sunrise. The second female was lying at the base of the Koppie, next to our vehicle. Heavily pregnant, she was to give birth to her own litter of four soon after.
A dazzle of three zebra stand together in a burnt area at last light in winter. Not in the frame here, but the pack of nine wild dog had surrounded them, with the zebra and dogs taking turns chasing each other before the dogs finally moved off to try and find some more realistic prospects for a meal.
If I had to choose one photo from the last three years as a favorite, this would probably be it. It was the culmination of a twelve hour sighting of the Tsalala females. We had found them early in the morning and watched the two hunt and kill an impala. They took their time in finishing it and as the heat began to build, so the other vehicles left for breakfast. Fortunately I was out on the photographic vehicle which meant we were out all day if needed, and was accompanied to two very enthusiastic and fortunately very patient guests in Clayton Surrat and Mary Sue Farley, who were spending a week with us. Knowing that both females had cubs, we had decided to spend the entire day with them in the hope of being led back to the den. After finishing the impala they went for a drink and began a very long and slow walk back to Marthly Pools, a section of small rocky outcrops along the Manylethis which they were using as a den at the time. We reached this spot at about midday, but rather than call the cubs out, they flopped into some shade and slept under the weight of their full bellies. Four hours later, they finally awoke-and walked straight into a section that was impassable in a vehicle! By this time, Talley Smith and Freddy Ngobeni had joined us in the sighting and thankfully saved the situation. Somehow they managed to get a vehicle in from a different access point, although this took another hour or so. Finally we rounded a corner and were greeted by the sight of all eight cubs chasing each other around the rocks. We spent an amazing last hour with them, with this one flopping down on a rock next to our vehicle for a break. The most valuable lesson from this is one which will serve anyone well, whether on safari or not, and that is the value of patience-nothing really worthwhile ever happens quickly or easily.
Thanks so much Jeff and Co! Will see what I can do about a Pangolin in the meantime….!