Growing up in South Africa I have been privileged with regular visits to the bush – but a visit to Londolozi is something particularly special. My first trip to Londolozi was in May this year, a “once in a lifetime” treat for my parents and I. Our experience on that occasion was so fantastic that once was never going be enough – so, a little over six months later I was back!
I arrived just in time for lunch which was served on the magnificent deck at Varty Camp. There I bumped into Greg, our ranger from the previous trip, who hinted that we have better luck viewing large male lions on this visit. So it was with high hopes that we set out off our first game drive of the trip in the capable hands of our ranger Ritchie and tracker Lucky.
It wasn’t long before we came across three of the legendary Majingilane males lazing in the afternoon sun, bellies bulging from a recent feed. We hadn’t been at the sighting long before a loud snarl alerted us to the presence of more lions. Sure enough, a short distance away, and under the shade of an acacia tree was the whole Tsalala pride and the fourth Majingilane male. The lions were feasting on a large buffalo cow which must have been killed only hours earlier. The sight of the Tsalala pride, their faces covered in blood, tearing into the buffalo carcass made for a macabre but spectacular scene.
Of course Londolozi is famous for its leopards and this reputation is incredibly well deserved. On this four day trip alone we witnessed the Camp Pan male stalk and kill a stork and two separate sightings of leopards with an impala kill that they had hoisted into the tree. One of the most exciting encounters took place on our third day when it was reported over the radio that two leopards had been seen mating. It wasn’t long before we spotted the Piva male and the Ximpalapala female a short distance from the road. A few seconds of growling and snarling and it was all over – leopard love making is not a lengthy affair! Leopards will continue to mate every fifteen minutes or so over the course of a few days so we stuck around to see what would happen next. Before the leopards could start the next round they were rudely interrupted by a hyena who was probably checking to see if they had a kill for him to steal. Unfortunately his unwelcome visit caused the leopards to seek privacy in a thick riverine gully and our sighting was over.
A trip to Londolozi is not just about spectacular big cat sightings. At this time of year the bushveld is bright green and humming with activity from the flying termites and croaking frogs to the many newborn impala and wildebeest taking their first wobbly steps. This experience is greatly enhanced by the warm hospitality and prodigious knowledge of the Londolozi staff. Special thanks to Jason, Will, Ritchie and the rest of the team for another unforgettable stay. I’ll be back again soon – in fact – any vacancies in April?
Written and Photographed by: Paul Brett