Heading out on our first early-morning game drive led by Don and Lucky, my wife Kristen and I recalled Don’s reminder that nothing is promised in the bush and that, despite all of our eagerness to see a leopard (our new friends from Granite Camp, the also newly-wed Lucy and Alex, were possibly even more excited about the prospect than we were), you just never know. So, obviously, when Lucky spotted a female leopard ambling through the dim first light towards the vehicle, we thought we’d hit the jackpot. The female came within a metre of us before calmly strolling past and disappearing into the thicket. We were set. Nothing could top that. That is, of course, until half an hour later when Lucky and Don somehow managed to hear kudu alarming in the distance as we watched two male rhino grazing in the northern section of Londolozi.
We eventually tracked the Gowrie male and found him sitting in a tree next to a warthog he’d hauled up there for safekeeping. After climbing down from his perch to relax, full-bellied, beside the vehicle, he would occasionally glance up to make sure his kill was still secure. His concern seemed fully justified when a hyena appeared behind all of us from among the trees, presumably hoping to sneak off with the remains of the warthog. All of a sudden, we felt as though one of our first ever game drives had erupted into a scene from a National Geographic special they’d likely take years to capture on film.
Don expertly manoeuvred us right in front of the fray as Gowrie defended his breakfast from the hyena who perhaps had misjudged Gowrie’s size or his stomach for a fight. Plenty of snarling, baring of teeth and swatting ensued as the hyena quickly realised his error and escaped, while Gowrie scrambled back up to the relative calm of the tree branches. It was an incredible experience that we were all amazed at having had the good fortune to witness. While this was almost certainly the most sensational experience of our visit (the fact that I’m not entirely sure indicates how lucky we were during our stay), we got to spend quite a bit more time with Gowrie and many other animals over the next few days as Londolozi, Lucky and Don helped serve up fantastic sighting after fantastic sighting. Quite honestly, we would have been content to take in the scenery and spot a few creatures from any distance, but I suppose the bush had other plans for our brief visit. I guess it’s true that ‘you never know’ – but sometimes that works in your favour.
Incidentally, we never did feel like we were able to thank Don, Lucky and the rest of the Londolozi team (I would be remiss not to mention how well looked after we were by Graeme, Jabs and everyone else back at camp) sufficiently for a very special honeymoon visit… so I guess we’ll just have to return as soon as we can and give it another shot.”
Written and Photographed by Charlie Ricciardelli, Londolozi Guest