Besides golf, no hobby is more inspiring and enjoyable for me than photography. And no form of photography is more inspiring and enjoyable than wildlife photography on safari in Africa. And no place is better for that than Londolozi.
Last month, I visited Londolozi for the second time; you can read my blog post from last year here. Last year, I had taken a close up of the Cape Pan male that I see every single day (since it is my screensaver on my iPhone and iPad!).
Thus, I anxiously looked forward to returning for months and had become an avid reader of this blog. Would we see the Cape Pan male again? What about the Marthly male? Would we see the new lion or leopard cubs? What about the tailless female – mother or daughter? What about the Majingilane brothers?
Our trip did not disappoint: we had an amazing three days of game viewing at Londolozi – among the best I have ever experienced. And we even had one game drive washed out by a storm with golf ball sized hail!
For any photographer, there are certain pictures that one would like to capture. For me, my safari bucket list included capturing a photo with a hippo’s mouth wide open, with the hippo’s huge teeth exposed for all to see. Within minutes on our first drive, I got a close up of precisely that.
Our amazing guide, Mike Sutherland, had also always wanted to get that photo too – and he captured a second yawn by this massive hippo.
Later in the drive, we found the Cape Pan male – in a similar area to which we saw him last year. He is a massive leopard. He awoke from a sleep to drink, before taking an evening walk.
We also saw rhino on this drive, which is also such an inspiring experience because they look like they belong in another world.
The next morning we saw one of the Majingilane mating with the tailless daughter.
Let’s just say the two lions enjoyed each other’s company all morning, which clearly tired out the male.
After leaving the mating lions, we found two seven-week old leopard cubs. Their eyes were an amazing blue color, as can be seen in the two photos. It was a really special experience to see such young leopards. I will be following the blog in the weeks and months ahead to see if they survive to adulthood.
Given our luck, we both lost and then found my iPhone – ran into a herd of elephant and then the Marthly male. I thought I would never see a leopard bigger than the Camp Pan male, but I think the Marthly male may be bigger. He was marking his territory when we found him. And we followed him for a quite a distance as he did his patrols.
As the Marthly male walked by me, he did what the Cape Pan male had done the previous year: He gave me a stare from feet away. Fortunately, I was in the jeep!
Unfortunately, we also found out on this drive that the original tailless lioness, who had been a famous resident of Londolozi, had passed away. By all accounts, she was an impressive lioness, but her time had come and the circle of her life had been completed.
The next morning, we set out to find cheetah – and again, luck was on our side. We literally found the mother and her two sub-adults on the road walking towards us. The mother was trying to put some distance between her and her kids, so that she could hunt.
Within a short period, she found a herd of impala and began to stalk them. A few minutes later, we saw what may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience: the fastest animal on the planet in a full sprint chasing down an impala.
The mother who is still teaching her kids the tricks of their trade weakened the impala and then sought to call over the sub-adults to finish the job. But all of the commotion had attracted the attention of two lionesses. The mother cheetah fearing her children’s safety, anxiously called for them. Without a response, she left the weakened impala.
Despite being chased down and then strangled by the mother cheetah, the impala got to its feet at precisely the wrong time – just in time for the lionesses to see her and we saw our second takedown of the morning. We watched as the lionesses devoured the impala and then fought over the impala’s head.
After leaving the lions, we saw our third kill of the morning: this Hamerkop (or hammerhead) bird had killed a frog.
Our game drives ended with one final, amazing sighting. The male cheetah joined the female and her two sub-adults. As rain started to come down lightly, we watched the four cheetahs look into the horizon – and every time the male cheetah got too close to her children, the female would hiss, driving the male cheetah a step backwards.
As we left, I started my planning for another trip to Londolozi. Thank you to the Varty family and all of the people who work at Londolozi – especially our guide and tracker – for making our trip such an incredible experience. Until I visit Africa again, I will be editing my photographs further (and playing golf), which both provide their own forms of inspiration and enjoyment.
Written and Photographed by Jon Orszag