It seems adaptability is the name of the game in these dry times, and I’m not just talking about the animals. As leopards in particular retreat to drainage lines with cover, seldom venturing out into the open, the Londolozi trackers and guides are being forced to put in proper amounts of time on foot, staying on tracks for extended periods in order to find the big cats to view.
As I write this, one ranger and four trackers are on foot in the south west of Londolozi, following the tracks of a pride of lions that moved through the area last night. It is this trait that separates the best trackers from the rest; taking it personally when they don’t find an animal, and doing whatever it takes to track them down. A never-say-die attitude.
I remember one morning when Andrea Sithole opted not to return to camp with the guests, but asked guide Mark Nisbet to leave him on foot with only a 500ml bottle of water to last him for however long it would take him to find the lions. By the time the afternoon rolled around and it was time to head out on game drive, he had still not returned to camp, and when Mark radioed him, he was still on the tracks, having followed for a good few kilometres through some very difficult terrain.
Eventually at around 3:30 that afternoon, he found the Mhangeni pride and their cubs, having been on foot and all alone for the last 7 hours.
That is the kind of dedication and skill that is going in to keeping the sightings coming on Londolozi, as the leopards, lions and other inhabitants continue to enthrall.
Having said enough by now, it’s time to enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A Mhangeni lioness carries one of her cubs across a portion of the Sand River. Truth be told this image is actually from a few weeks ago but was the first quality sighting I’ve ever had of a lioness carrying a cub and so couldn’t resist sharing. We think these lions are still denning around the river and hope to see more of the youngsters in the future. f5,6/ 1/320s, ISO 1250 Photograph by Amy Attenborough
A white rhino and her female calf walk into a pan for a drink and then a wallow. Rhinos will generally drink before they engage in a mud-wallow, as they will necessarily have muddied up the water if they wallow first. f5, 1/800s, ISO 640. Photograph by James Tyrrell
The Tutlwa female heads down to the Sand River, a far more productive hunting area owing to the sparseness of vegetation elsewhere. f6.3, 1/100, ISO 1250. Photograph by James Tyrrell
An uncommon sight: two reedbuck out in the open. There were actually three in this sighting, but the third was a bit more shy. Usually restricting themselves to area of longer grass, as their name suggests, this pair has actually been spending some time near this pan in the south-west of the reserve, and sightings have been a bit more consistent than usual. f5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 500. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A journey of giraffes flee into the afternoon sun. We were following some leopard tracks with our cameras in hand and came across this group unexpectedly in the gold of the afternoon, giving them a fright and causing them to run off about 60 metres or so. f2.8, 1/8000s, ISO 640. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A young Tsalala cub looks towards one of its siblings clambering over some of the rocks below. We had a spattering of rain a few nights ago and when we found these cubs the next morning they were rather wet and bedraggled. f5,6, 1/250s, ISO 2000 Photograph by Amy Attenborough
Amy Attenborough snaps some shots of a large giraffe bull in the Sand River as the sky purples into evening. We are seeing more and more giraffe favouring the riverfront vegetation as there is still ample browsing to be had there. f2.8, 1/80s, ISO 1000. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A male cheetah uses the old Selati railway line as a quick way to move through the reserve. We had bumped into him unexpectedly on this evening, and he was moving quickly, foregoing some hunting opportunities, even though he had an empty stomach. We figured he may well have been chased by another predator and was trying to get out of the area. f2.8, 1/800s, ISO 1250. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A day or so later we found him again, hunting near the Londolozi airstrip. Here he scent marks on a fallen marula. f3.2, 1/2000, ISO 320. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A Common duiker comes down to a waterhole for a drink. These antelope are relatively shy and prefer being in amongst cover. It was therefore special for me to capture one out in the open and in such beautiful light. f5,6, 1/250s, ISO 800 Photograph by Amy Attenborough
The 4:4 male yawns and stretches before getting active from Plaque Rock, an iconic spot to see a leopard on Londolozi. f5.6, 1/250, ISO 800. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A buffalo bull, feeding in the open areas of Londolozi, looks up briefly to scan the horizon. These older males tend to scatter themselves on the edges and nearer the back of the herd to provide protection to the smaller and more vulnerable buffalo in the group. f7,1, 1/640s, ISO 500 Photograph by Amy Attenborough
Byron Serrao extricates his vehicle from a tricky position, whilst trackers Richard and Equalizer issue instructions from the back seat. f5.6, 1/160s, ISO 1600. Photograph by James Tyrrell
The two older Tsalala cubs engage in rough play whilst their mother tries to ignore them. f5.6, 1/1250, ISO 1250. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A white-backed vulture warms itself in the early morning sun. f3.5, 1/4000s, ISO 320. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A Matimba male lion tests the urine of a Mhangeni lioness to check if she is ready to mate. The Mhangeni pride have been on and off Londolozi of late, scattered and in unusual groupings, making it hard to keep up with their movements. f5,6, 1/320s, ISO 2000 Photograph by Amy Attenborough
A Mhangeni lioness brushes up against a Matimba male lion on a cool winter’s morning. This pride finds itself in a difficult position, being caught between both the Majingilane and Matimba coalitions. f5,6, 1/160s, ISO 2000 Photograph by Amy Attenborough
The Sand River captured at dawn. As the sun rose, the mist lifted off the water, enhancing one of my favourite vistas on Londolozi. Photograph by Amy Attenborough
Photographs by James Tyrrell and Amy Attenborough