Happy New Year to everyone! I hope 2014 was wrapped up in fantastic style and that 2015 has got off to a cracking start.
It has been all systems go on Londolozi going into the new year, with lions running rampant all over the place. With the Styx, Sparta, Mhangeni and Tsalala prides as well as the Majingilane all on the property we have been rather spoiled for choice over the last few days. The verdant greens of summer continue to beautify the photographic efforts of rangers and guests alike, and as the last few summer migrant birds put in an appearance – the most notable recent arrivals being the carmine bee-eaters – Londolozi is up to a full complement in the wildlife department.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Tutlwa female watches us from the boughs of a marula, her impala kill firmly wedged in the fork of the tree, while Varty Camp looms in the background.
The Tsalala pride had been feeding on a buffalo the day before, just over the hill, and the vultures that had left the scene of the kill now began showing interest in the Tutlwa female’s kill. Knowing their presence may attract other predators, she leaped to the ground with the carcass and dragged it down to the river to stash away in more secrecy.
This bold hyena cub ventured a little too close to the young waterbuck bull and promptly got charged. He thought it prudent to retreat to a safe distance.
A hippo in Nyamakunze Pan shows off his lethal canines
A breeding herd of elephant exits the Sand River at Finfoot crossing while a big bull closes in from behind. The river was flowing very strongly, and the herd had small calves with them, so they were reluctant to wade across at just any old point. We watched the matriarch test the depth of the river with her trunk at various spots before being satisfied that the water was shallow enough for the calves to make it.
Tracker Mike Sithole had followed a drag mark near the Maxabene riverbed and found the Tamboti female on a freshly killed impala ram. We watched her hoist it up the trunk of a weeping boer-bean tree and across into a tamboti before settling down to feed. She fed for a further two days, providing amazing viewing and photographic opportunities.
A buffalo tests the wind at a pan in the deep south while the sun makes its way steadily towards the horizon. I exposed for the buffalo in this photo, resulting in a slightly blown out background, which I was forced to darken in Lightroom to bring out the colours in the sky.
A yellow-billed kite, a summer visitor to Londolozi, dries out its flight feathers in the morning sun.
Ximpalapala crest is one of my favourite areas on Londolozi, purely for its uninterrupted views in every direction. If you do happen to find animals here, you are almost guaranteed a stunning backdrop against which to photograph them, like with this magnificent elephant bull.
A close-up of the skin of the same elephant. Wonderful textures.
The Mashaba Young female loves to climb marulas. On this afternoon she was spotted by tracker Shadrack Mkhabela. A Wahlberg’s eagle had also seen her and sounded the alarm from a neighbouring tree, which is where she was looking in this photo.
Her mother, the Mashaba female, also no stranger to Marula trees, takes a moment to snatch a last glance towards the herd of impala in the distance she would shortly be setting off to hunt.
Impala lambs in motion. To create this effect, slow your shutter speed down to around 1/50th or 1/60th of a second (your ranger can show you how) and pan the camera along with your subject, focussing on its face. Getting a good shot is often a matter of pure luck.
The Majingilane were found late in the morning by Ntsako Sibuyi. Marching along with the Mhangeni pride, they settled down to sleep out the day on the north bank of the Sand River. A short while later however, once game drives had all returned to camp, they spotted vultures dropping towards where the Tsalala pride had been feeding on a kill and moved in to investigate. The Tsalalas had long since finished off the kill, but the sound of roaring by the Dark-maned male had attracted our attention, and a few rangers headed out to investigate. We found all of the Majingilane on nearby clearing and were able to park the vehicle in a convenient dip at the head of a drainage line in order to get some wonderful low-level photographic opportunities. Here the male with the missing canine advances while the Scar-nosed male follow in the distance.
The coalition is showing signs of their age. Dark rings around the eyes are a sure sign of advancing years in lions, and with the Styx males – among others – applying pressure from the east, the wisest thing for the Majingilane to do would be to consolidate their territory in the west, like their predecessors the Mapogo once did.
The intimidating stare of the Dark-maned Majingilane.
Photographed by James Tyrrell