The English poet William Blake once wrote, ‘To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour’. For me, these words define my time at Londolozi. It is a combination of the Black Mane lion of the Majingilane roaring into a flawless night sky, and that of a tiny dung beetle struggling to roll his precious ball along the road. It is a completely different world from the bustling streets of London.
I had previously visited Londolozi two years ago with my parents for a short stay, and knew of the amazing lodges, hosts and game. I thought that trip could not be outdone. How wrong I was. Getting off the plane from Jo’burg into the scorching sunshine, the beautiful greenery and the smell of the bush, it was the perfect start to an incredible six days.
Londolozi’s principles are all based around conservation and the experience with the animals, so to find a bush snake (harmless I must add) in our villa, brought me down to earth. Yes, there are dangers in the bush and we all must be aware of them, but that snake, and the frog we found in the bathroom later that night epitomised the fact that we were in the bush and that there are surprises around every corner.
The surprises of each drive and the sightings we encountered never ceased to amaze me. On the very first night, we watched the Tamboti female in a tree as she began devouring an impala baby she had caught. I cannot get over how much of a privilege it is to sit there for two hours in the presence of this infamous animal, the climbing ability, the strength, but most of all, the beauty. Secondly, that night, there was an enormous swarm of termites, the largest concentration James (our esteemed ranger who was phenomenal in all aspects, from spotting animals to his help with our photographic equipment) had ever seen. It was exhilarating. At night I will never forget the day being topped off by the splendid meal that the Londolozi chefs had mustered up.
I could not get to grips with the complexity of the lion’s territorial behaviour. During our stay, three of the four Majingilane males came east into the Londolozi reserve due to threats from the North, further East and South (the Styx pride whom we saw on Londolozi soil, and pointed out to us by kudu (!) are a rarity to say the least). It seems a storm is brewing as the four males having increased their territory to a size they are incapable of keeping, especially as they are ageing. To put another spanner into the works, the Tsalala pride met up with the Majingilane boys so it will be interesting to see how things turn out in the next year. We will return at the end of 2015 for another visit.
Moving on to the legendary leopards of Londolozi, I must praise our tracker, Mike, and James again for tracking and spotting some very special sights. On our second night, we were driving around Singita and Mike heard a jackal’s alarm call and guinea fowl climbing a tree, only to find an unknown young male leopard on top of a termite mound. Two mornings later, in the deep south, Mike spotted a zebra foal’s leg dangling out a tree from 50 metres away. James duly drove towards it and having done some outstanding tracking once again, we found the Makhotini female about 20 metres from the tree, truly unbelievable.
It is all very well talking about the big cats however some of my most special moments were seen elsewhere. For example, being in the middle of a moving herd of elephant, seeing a huge herd of buffalo moving towards a watering hole, a lone young hyena looking very lethargic trying to find its way home in the treacherous wilderness, the constant activity of buffalo weavers, not to mention the countless impala calves, zebra and wildebeest foals taking their first steps. The fishing activity was also very special and enormous fun. We almost caught a fish and found out that the fish have an uncanny knack of eating the lines! I put it down to sharp teeth.
Londolozi is based around the bush experience, yet it would be wrong not to mention the hospitality we had during our stay. To be able to have lunch in a tree house one day, and dinner in the bush the following night is a once in a lifetime experience. Victoria was amazing throughout and a superb host when we had our dinner in the bush. To Cry, Kerri, Lovey and the whole team, the food was exquisite throughout and you made our stay truly unforgettable. Founders Camp has an atmosphere that is unique to anywhere else in the world. Kate’s wonderful assistance in the Creative Hub was also really appreciated so that we could learn how to manipulate any photos taken during our stay. Finally to James and Mike, the experience of a drive is solely down to the expertise and relationship the ranger has with the guests and the tracker – we couldn’t have asked for a better duo. Helping with photography and the abyss of knowledge you both possess for the bush was second to none. Lets get that cheetah next time! I hope you all had an amazing Christmas and a very happy New Year and I look forward to seeing you all for New Year next year. Bring it on.
Written by: Harry Ryan, age 17
Photographed by: the Ryan Family