Happy Australia Day, everyone! Celebrated annually on 26 January, Australia Day marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the first fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.
228 years later, many, many things have changed in the world, but strangely, Australians and South Africans have grown closer as cultures. Sure, when our national cricket or rugby teams go head-to-head we are bitterly polarized, but as soon as the game’s over it’s outside for a braai or barbeque, a few cold beers, and there is good cheer all round.
To show our veneration for the antipodeans across the Indian Ocean, we thought we’d post a little something to immortalise the billabong. Now for many people, Billabong is simply a giant surf brand, but the etymology of the name is taken from the Australian word for an isolated pond or waterbody that is left behind when a river changes course. Although we haven’t had any rivers change their course over the last while at Londolozi, we certainly have what we deem to be billabong-equivalents in the form of the waterholes and pans that dot the landscape.
One such waterbody, Taylor’s Dam, is an open pool of water situated just behind Pioneer Camp, a few hundred metres from the Sand River. The western Londolozi camps often start off their game drives by heading past Taylor’s Dam, and if the local croc isn’t catching fish or a timid bushbuck isn’t discreetly sipping water in the far corner, there is sure to be something going on to catch your eye. If you are really lucky the Mashaba female and her cub may even be sauntering past the inlet on the western side.
Recently, National Geographic photographer Sergey Gorshkov was with us for another stay, and while his focus was leopards, particularly the cubs of the Tamboti female, as with any good photographer, he was keen to take advantage of whatever unique photographic opportunity presented itself.
The drop in water levels throughout the Lowveld provided him and ranger Don Heyneke with just such an opportunity, in the form of two hippo bulls battling for dominance in Taylor’s Dam. As space becomes limited for the resident hippo population, tempers fray, and hippo bulls will regularly engage each other in spectacular clashes, some of which continue to the death.
One of the bulls in this encounter wisely decided that discretion was the better course of valour, and he made a hasty and ignominious retreat to higher ground.
We expect to see more such interactions until the rains return and the rivers run in full spate. Let’s hope they are captured as well as Sergey managed to capture this one.