My perfect day is set in the heart of the African bush in the private game reserve of Londolozi located in South Africa. We are awakened at 5:30am and my brother and I make our way down to the Main lodge. We are welcomed by Wayland, a charismatic staff member who answers every guest request with an enthusiastic “Sure”. Mike Karantonis, our Specialist Ranger from Africa Direct who joins us on all our safari trips, gives us a big morning greet too. He is like family to us. Wayland serves up a big mug of warm hot chocolate and homemade granola bars. We climb up into the cold jeep that was awaiting our return all night. The cushioned seats are stiff from the cold but we wrap ourselves up in a thick wool blanket and are handed a hot water bottle. We can’t see a thing; the reserve is wrapped in a blanket of darkness where only the jeep’s flashlight leads our way. After my Dad and I set up our cameras, my family and I prepare ourselves for the always “perfect day” in the African wilderness.
We make our way north to the high ground to watch the sunrise in its purity. There are no buildings, no fences, no pollution and no people. It’s just you and the sun in an eye opening sunrise that can never be beaten. After driving and surveying the land, our tracker Freddy spots a male leopard sitting near a large termite mound waiting for a hopeful breakfast. Freddy is the best tracker we have ever had on safari. The man doesn’t just track animals, he tracks adventure!
You might imagine watching this leopard hunt his prey as fast and active but this was certainly not the case. We sat at that termite mound with that male leopard waiting patiently and quietly for nearly 4 hours on a windy hill top with our stomachs growling. But it didn’t matter one bit. All this time, other Jeeps from all over the reserve had stopped by to see the action but they all would give up and move on. Instead we stick it out because you never know exactly what is going to happen so you must be patient.
Finally, the leopard cunningly and ever so slowly repositions himself closer to the mound and to the right of the hole. As twenty or so more minutes pass, two distinct warthog noses rise from the hole. The leopard pulled back his head to hide his scent and position as the warthogs slowly inched themselves out of the hole. The leopard breaks out of the tall grass and the warthogs ran for their lives. 1…2… It all happened so fast. The warthogs are gone and the leopard perched himself on top of the mound. No luck today for the leopard as you can see the disappointment in his face matched ours.
We troop on, stopping here and there to snap a few photos while keeping our eye open for another sighting. We are finally surprised as we pull off into a small opening to enjoy “breakfast in the bush” where the lodge staff set up a table and cook up a rustic bite to eat. It’s a quick stop and we leave with our bellies full and happy as we set off for more adventure. We take a shortcut by going through the mostly dried up river bed, and by surprise we see 4 lionesses lounging by the river’s cool air. Some were lying by the little puddle they call a “river” and two of them are sleeping in a Leadwood tree hanging over the water. A magnificent image that just made the day seem all so surreal.
We return back to the lodge for a quick lunch and a visit to the local school. The local school is not too far from the lodge and is where most of the staff lives. We enter a small building known as the main “learning center” and wait for a woman who proudly leads her group of about 20 children between the ages of 1-5. We introduce ourselves and she tells us that she is referred to as the “grannie” of the school. The children sing us a song to welcome us. We hand out childrens books that we brought from home and Dum Dum lollipops. The kids are so innocent as they ate the lollipops some still with the wrapper on them. We say our sad goodbyes and head back out.
The day continues with hours of tracking a leopard through the dense forest followed by quietly cheering on a wounded mother cheetah hunt unsuccessfully twice for her two cubs.
We finish the day resting with a pride of lions and their nine baby cubs. Once back at the lodge, we enjoy a delicious dinner with our Ranger and talked about the day’s highlights amongst ourselves and had some great laughs with Tammy, the Lodge Manager. A night’s rest awaits us now. Going to bed early prepares us for our next early rise and day of adventure. When it’s all said and done, there is nothing that will ever beat a day in the bush as it is where I will always call “my other home”. Our family has traveled to the bush four times. Each time, we continue to experience perfect days such as this. Thank you Londolozi for creating not just one perfect day but a whole week’s worth.
Let us know what your favourite image is in the comments section below…
Written & Filmed by: McCrae Williams
Photographed by: McCrae Williams & Chris Williams