This week, as opposed to the normal game drive, we spent quite a bit of time on foot. The purpose of walking in the bush is not usually to view and photograph the larger mammals so much as gaining a different perspective and focusing on the smaller, more subtle things. On one particular morning, Adam kindly led the walk and carried the rifle, and my hands were free to take my camera along.
Our morning began at sunrise, in a vehicle, crossing the Sand River onto Marthly. At the moment the Sand River is a bit too deep to cross on foot: the danger of crocodiles is too high. We had decided our goal for the walk would be to explore an area we hadn't been able to access with the vehicles since the floods: the Manyeleti Riverbed in the north of Londolozi.
Once reaching the point where the flood damage is too great for the vehicles to cross, we headed out on foot towards the Manyelethi River. One of the features of Marthly which draws so many people to this beautiful piece of land is the abundance of large trees like this Leadwood which dwarfs Adam!
Looking upstream in the Manyeleti River. During the January floods, this usually dry riverbed flowed so strongly that it reached the canopy of this tree: you can see where the debris has collected. Amazing to consider the forces of nature!
We walked upstream in the riverbed, exploring the spots we hadn't been able to access with a vehicle since early January.
One of the first things we came across was this male lion track. Undoubtably one of the Majingalane Males, who had walked the previous evening. It was most likely the Dark-maned male, as he spends the most amount of time on his own, as well as north of the Sand River. The tracks had come from the south, and after a few tense moments where we weren't sure whether or not we would bump into him, we saw that the tracks crossed out of the riverbed.
The guys discuss the direction of the lion's tracks. He had stopped at this pool to have a drink.
In the riverbed, there is still a lot of residual water, where many smaller animals, including this tiny terrapin, have set up a temporary home!
When on foot in the bush, birding is always a highlight, albeit slightly more difficult to get an up-close photograph! This Black-headed oriole sat still just long enough, but that morning we enjoyed sightings of many raptors, woodpeckers, kingfishers, and bee-eaters, just to name a few.
Here were some interesting tracks, and a good example of relative size! A hyena had walked after an elephant, stepping in his track. Mammals tend to use the same pathways as they are the 'paths of least resistance', although these two individuals would not have been traveling together! When taking bush walks, often a huge focus is on interpreting tracks and signs. Many stories can be told just from examining a small area.
One of my favourite spots on Londolozi has always been Marthly Pools, and to see it full of water was a real treat!
We sat for a while on the granite rocks of the Pools, enjoying the peace.
The view looking downstream from Marthly Pools. We have often enjoyed sightings of the Nyeleti leopards and the Tsalala lions on and around these granite rocks. One can see why they are attracted to this area. For those that have been to Londolozi, the road ran through the riverbed on the right hand side of this frame. It will probably be a while before another vehicle can cross!
The dominant bedrock on Londolozi is granite, but every so often in the Manyeleti we came across different rock types with interesting textures, such as this one.
The season for the Golden Orb Web spiders is ending, and we are seeing fewer and fewer. We watched this one spinning her web in the morning light.
Further along, we found some fairly fresh leopard tracks. We followed them for a while before they crossed out of the riverbed heading north. They were most likely from the Nyeleti Young Female, whom we haven't seen much of recently simply due to the inaccessability factor of her territory!
A giant leopard orchid grows in one of the largest leadwood trees on Marthly. These plants are epiphytes which use trees for a structural base and do not take nutrients from the tree. The flowers are yellow with small pink spots, hence the name!
In the many pools we found along the way, there were lots of small creatures to be seen! Here we were curious as to what was making some interesting tracks in the sand below the surface...
A look in the next pool revealed the interesting tracks were the work of some freshwater shellfish!
One tree bearing its fruit at the moment is the Scented-pod thorn, or Acacia nilotica. These pods have a sweet scent when opened, and are a favourite food for giraffe, antelope, monkeys and baboons.
After the flooding January rains, we actually haven't received much more rainfall, and the soil is starting to dry out. Here a tortoise has walked across a mud wallow just as it was starting to crack with dryness.
This bright yellow flower stood out amongst the green vegetation. It appeared to be coming from a raisin bush, but closer investigation revealed it was actually from a vine growing on top of the raisin bush. I hadn't seen this flower before... any thoughts?
For a usually-dry riverbed, there were a lot of fish in the pools! Indeed there are a few species known for their ability to survive in drought conditions, deep down in the mud, and then flourish with the return of rains.