My wife and I visited Londolozi in September, the second game reserve of our first ever trip to Africa. We had ticked off “the Big 5” at our first location, and so on our arrival, we wondered if Londolozi would merely add more sightings, or perhaps provide a greater, broader experience of wildlife and the land.
It wasn’t long before we knew we were immersed in a deeper and more captivating reality that was to broaden our understanding of the natural world and its inhabitants. These are some of the memorable and indelible highlights.
Visual chapters from the Circle of Life were played out everywhere; conception, birth and death made manifest on a daily basis. Perhaps most poignant was the sight of a newly born elephant, perhaps only hours old, struggling to walk and keep up with its mother, its umbilical cord still intact.
The sighting of mating leopards on our first game drive portrayed the instinctual drive to reproduce in a scene that was at times alluring, and at times ferocious.
A visit to the hyena den opened our eyes to the essential ecological role provided by these much maligned creatures, and even a sense of admiration, more so after viewing the caring family structures of the packs. Such nurturing family structures were echoed in so many other animal family groups we experienced, including lion, elephant, and even the extended family groupings of the diminutive dwarf mongoose!
Our encounters with the elephants were always entertaining, but also always enlightening as we learned ever more of the intriguing details of their matriarchal based society and behaviours.
The perils and savagery of life in the wild were brought home with the sighting of the Tu-Tones male leopard with a freshly acquired deep and bloody laceration to the side of his head, likely incurred the night before in battles of survival in the bush.
And we learned of the many battles and struggles played out in the wild for dominance, and territorial command from our encounters with the prides of lion, solitary leopard, and the extraordinary sight of of two male hippos fighting out of water on the far side of the Sand River. The parallels in human behaviour that have shaped the course of history were plain to see.
And fury was not confined to the wildlife as we were witness to the fires that threatened the camp itself, a sight both threatening and breathtaking, and a stark reminder of the often perilous footing mankind clings to in the natural world.
Of course our experience was made all the richer by our tracker and ranger. Tracker Jeremiah could read the land and its signs better than I could read a book. And ranger Tom (Imrie), who kept us enchanted with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the universe, and all things within it, and his philosophical and scholarly insights into both the human and natural worlds, all delivered in his own entertaining style. Tom broadened our smiles as well as our minds.
Throughout our time, our experience was made all the more remarkable and memorable by the hospitality, personalised service and sincere geniality of Nadia and her team at the camp, especially during the stressful times of the fires. And an hour of mentoring by Kate Collins at the Creative Hub was inspirational to my photography in so many ways.
And so we left Londolozi with much more than further sightings of the Big 5. Rather, we left with a heightened sensitivity to the natural world, its wonders, its threats, and its lessons for human kind. And we left Londolozi, in the Varty tradition, feeling like family.
But there was one more memory we took away to cherish, which was the allure of the land, in all its primal harshness and its lush beauty. This land, on which the first human beings once walked, held a strange sense of familiarity to me, and a wondering that perhaps there was indeed something buried deep in the human genome, a genetic landscape print, that made us feel that we had come home at last.
Written and Photographed by: Steve Gordon.
The Circle of Life plays out everyday in the bush, which moment, if any, would you most like to witness in the wild? Share your thoughts with us below.