This week it seemed that there were lions everywhere and leopards were nowhere to be seen. At one stage during the week, we had the Sparta pride, Tsalala pride, Tsalala breakaway pride, Majingilane coalition and the two remaining Mapogo males on Londolozi.For me, the highlight was the appearance of the two Mapogo, lions that I thought I would never see again as they seemed to be moving further and further south and even into the Kruger National Park. They were given a lifeline when they managed to bring down an adult female buffalo and managed to have a good feed. The resultant improvement in their condition was amazing to see.
As we move into the summer months and have more and more rain, so the bush is quickly thickening up. This is making it increasingly difficult to track and find leopard, but when our hard work is rewarded, the sighting is that much more memorable.
The other highlight of the week was the first sighting of an impala lamb on 4th November. This is always a day that we eagerly await.
Grab a cup of coffee and spend a few minutes experiencing the week as we have here at Londolozi.
Early one morning, we bumped into a rather hungry looking Maxabene 3:3 young male. These days, we don’t see him all that often as he spends most of his time in the grassland areas in the south west of our property, so this was a real treat! Shortly after we found him, it became clear that he was on a mission and seems to have inherited his father’s (Camp Pan male) taste for warthogs.
The Maxabene 3:3 young male staring at a warthog burrow in a termite mound, trying to see if anyone was home. We followed him as he walked from termite mound to termite mound, checking for warthog burrows.
As often happens, a hyena suddenly arrived on the scene, having followed the leopard’s scent, hoping to find something to scavenge. The Maxabene 3:3 male was so focussed on the warthog burrow that he didn’t notice the hyena until it was metres from him. When he eventually detected the hyena, he showed his displeasure by snarling aggressively. Undeterred, the hyena decided to lie down under a near by tree and bide his time.
One of the highlights of spending time with the large herd of buffalo is a chance to capture close up shots of oxpeckers. Here, a red billed oxpecker takes a moment before continuing to forage for ticks on this buffalo. The clear green background of this shot is what makes it for me.
We were lucky enough to see both brothers this week. Here, the maxabene 3:2 young male stops momentarily in the golden afternoon light.
Most things look better in the golden afternoon light, but the leopard is surely the most exquisite. The maxabene 3:2 young male continues on his afternoon patrol, perfectly illuminated.
Leopards have recently been reminding us just why they are so prized by wildlife enthusiasts, as they have proven incredibly difficult to track down. After two drives of searching for a leopard, we eventually managed to get a look at the Camp Pan male. He is the father of the two Maxabene young males pictured above is is still looking as strong and healthy as ever.
A journey of giraffe set themselves up perfectly for a portrait shot.
Some time ago I thought that I had seen the Mapogo for the last time, but was pleasantly surprised when they turned up on the Londolozi property again this week. When I saw them, however, I was convinced that they were on their last legs, as both were looking extremely skinny, with ‘Pretty boy’s’ ribs clearly visible in this picture.
Just a couple of hours after I saw the two Mapogo looking incredibly hungry, news came that they had killed a buffalo. This surprised me somewhat as just hours earlier, I had watched as they ran away from the approaching herd of buffalo. Whilst I can’t be certain, I imagine that they managed to find a sick cow or one that had become separated from the herd.
The bush never ceases to amaze. Just a few hours earlier, these two males were looking down and out. After one good feed, ‘Makhulu’ and ‘Pretty boy’ were looking as healthy as ever.
A hooded vulture slowly approaches the site of where the Mapogo took the buffalo down. Seemingly unfazed, ‘Makhulu’ feeds on the buffalo in the background. Being in such an open area, it wasn’t long before the vultures started descending. The Mapogo, however, were in no rush to give up this big meal.
One of the most beautiful birds in the around, a malachite kingfisher perches on a sedge on the banks of camp dam, just outside Varty Camp.
Early on in the week, the Sparta Pride killed a zebra on central Londolozi. At the moment, with 7 cubs and 4 lionesses, the Sparta Pride is quite the spectacle. I noticed that the lionesses were careful not to let the cubs stray too far from them as there were quite a few hyenas patrolling the area. Here, one of the lionesses glances at a hyena who was venturing a bit too close.
One of the 7 Sparta cubs, watching us intently. The 7 cubs belong to 3 lionesses. Only the 12 year old lioness, the sister of the Mapogo, doesn’t have cubs. 3 of the cubs are 8 months old, 2 are 5 months old and 2 are 4 months old.
A rhino calf walks in front of its mother as they graze through the open areas in south western Londolozi.
We were watching the three Tsalala females as they lay on the airstrip, constantly looking north. Just then, one of the Majingilane coalition emerged from the dense vegetation along the Sand River. The Tsalala pride are always wary of the Majingilane coalition and what ensued was some sort of stand off. The male lion lay down about 100 metres away from the Tsalala females and just peered at them over the top of the grass.
This week the male cheetah ventured well out of the area in which we usually find him. Traditionally, the cheetah spends most of his time in the open areas making up south western Londolozi, but this week we found him around the Londolozi airstrip, close to the Sand River and surrounded by thick bush, home to numerous leopard as well as the Tsalala pride and Majingilane coalition.
Written and photographed by James Crookes