Variety is the spice of life, so they say, and nowhere on Londolozi will you find a greater variety of habitats than in the area north of the Sand River known as Marthly.
Few roads traverse this wild area and sightings of unknown leopards are not infrequent. Aardvark tracks and the fresh diggings of the animals are regularly found (although I am still waiting for my first sighting of this frustratingly elusive creature), servals regularly rear their heads from the long grass that they like to hunt in, and the North is generally a place in which we expect the unexpected.
The Manyelethi River defines the North for me. A beautiful dry riverbed that winds its way through the property from north-west to south-east, twisting and turning like a snake, it’s boulder fields and wide open sands have been the scene of innumerable memorable sightings for myself and the rest of the team. The Manyelethi received a facelift during the 2012 floods, with many of the thickets and wild date palms that filled the riverbed being swept away. As a result, it is now a far more accessible and crossable riverbed in many areas.
Elephants dig for water between its banks, the Tsalala pride frequents the cool shade offered by the riparian vegetation, and Verraux’s eagle owls are often to be seen in the tall ebony trees along it’s fringes.
The line of Koppies (rocky outcrops) stretching from west to east through the Sabi Sands features prominently in the North, and Ximpalapala, Southern Cross and Marthly Pools koppies are all part of the same geological feature, formed over hundreds of thousands of years as the surrounding granite crests eroded away slightly faster than them. Leopards and lions both den frequently amongst the rocks and in the cracks, while klipspringers, hardy little antelope exclusively found on rocky hillsides, are often seen perched high above.
Whenever I cross the Sand River to the North, I never fail to get that excited sense of anticipation; that ‘night-before-christmas’ feeling, like something special is about to happen. And it often does.
I always tell my guests that if we happen to not see anything while out on game drive, the North is the place to do it, as simply driving or walking through this diverse and fascinating area is the truest kind of immersion you can get. I will often switch off the vehicle and tell everyone to just listen. Whether it’s the distant roar of a lion in the evening that we can hear, the iconic cry of an African fish eagle high overhead, or simply the silence that surrounds us, it is all magical.
If you come to Londolozi, insist that you cross to the North on at least one drive.
Once you have been there, you’ll understand…
Written and photographed by James Tyrrell