It has been yet another remarkable week at Londolozi. Incredible interactions and unlikely sightings continue to surprise us all. My absolute highlight from the week has to be the interaction I witnessed between a single Mhangeni lioness and a clan of hyenas. If you missed the blog post a few days ago, follow this link to watch the rather intense footage of her very close call.
Another highlight was a morning spent with the Tsalala Pride in the rocks in front of Varty Camp. These youngsters jaunted on the rocks all morning, enthralling us for hours and you’ll notice how much I enjoyed the sighting by the extent to which it dominates my TWIP.
Despite dry conditions continuing to persist and us having to watch the Lowveld and her animals go through such a trying time, so much life continues to prevail. We have had a spattering of rain and continue to pray for more.
And with that we wish you a happy entry into the weekend. Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The lighter-maned Matimba male lion drinks from a pan. The Mhangeni breakaway lionesses had killed a buffalo close to the pan and it seems he was drawn into the area by the scent. After scouting the area, he managed to find only scraps left from the buffalo and after getting no response to his roars, moved out of the area. 1/640 at f5,6; ISO 800
A buffalo cow sits and ruminates in the early morning. Due to the lack of grass and nutrients at the moment, these animals are incredibly weak, resting far more often than they normally do. You’ll also be able to see that she is lacking a lot of hair on her stomach, ribs and face which is thinning due to the poor conditions. 1/640 at f6,3; ISO 400
Herds of buffalo typically splinter during the winter months as conditions deteriorate. With the particularly bad grazing at the moment, this splintering has been taken to the extreme and when I found this herd, there were only four animals together. Their weak condition and lack of herd protection means they are even more vulnerable to being preyed upon. 1/640 at f6,3; ISO 400
A Tsalala Pride cub sits and watches one of its siblings playing on some rocks a few hundred meters away. We found these lions playing on the boulders in the river in front of Varty Camp in the soft early morning light. All the following photographs are from the same sighting. 1/2000 at f7,1; ISO 800
One of the lionesses breaks away from the boisterous cubs to rest on her own. Despite being patient and playful with their cubs, these lions do take some time off on their own every now and then. 1/1600 at f7,1; ISO 800
One of the Tsalala Pride cubs looks back into the early morning light. The light, setting and activity really did make this a dream sighting. 1/640 at f7,1; ISO 800
Three of the cubs play together in a train-like formation while one of their fathers rests in the foreground. After numerous attempts to play with him the cubs eventually lost interest and played on their own. 1/2500 at f7; ISO 800
A Tsalala lioness playfully hooks one of her cubs as it strolls over to join her. Soon after this the rest of the cubs ran across to join the pair. We spent hours with this pride on that particular morning as the cooler temperatures kept them active for ages. 1/200 at f7,1; ISO 800
Three Tsalala Pride cubs play on the rocks in front of Varty Camp. This pride has been spending a vast majority of their time in the river where most of the prey species are being forced to go in order to find decent food and water. The slightly thicker bush also provides ideal cover for the pride to hunt in. 1/2500 at f7; ISO 500
A common reedbuck feeds from the grass growing in a pan system. These antelope are typically really shy and tend to stay hidden in long grass. Because this ideal habitat is not available for them at the moment, we are seeing them much more often. 1/400 at f8; ISO 320
One of Londolozi’s beloved spots, a view from Ximpalalpala Koppie. I was shocked to see how much the view has changed from up here in the last few months. 1/500 at f8; ISO 320
A young elephant bull walks along the top of a ridge crest. To find decent food these animals are having to push over trees and dig up root systems. Another typical behaviour at this time of the year is to dig in the river sand to reach fresh water. 1/2500 at f6,3; ISO 400
A really sad and pretty remarkable sighting. We found this young elephant the day before with its mother standing over its lifeless body. We returned a day later to find her still trying to lift the body to a standing position with her feet and trunk. At this point the rest of the herd had moved off. After two days she seemed to realise that there was nothing she could do and eventually left the area to rejoin the herd. A hyena was seen running off with the trunk of an elephant calf in a similar area this morning, which we assume is from this same youngster. Despite it being really sad to see and hard to watch, we need to appreciate that at least this young life has not gone to waste and has helped to sustain other forms of life through its death. 1/125 at f5,6; ISO 1000
The Mashaba Young female leopard sits high up in a Jackalberry tree with her baboon kill stashed in a Leadwood tree close by. To find out more about what this young leopard has been up to refer to Sean Cresswell’s blog from yesterday. 1/400 at f5,6; ISO 500
A young hyena cub rests at the entrance to the den site. This den has been the site of great activity lately, especially with regards to interactions with lions. Follow the link to read about this sighting and to see the fascinating footage of this entire clan taking on a single lioness. 1/250 at f6,3; ISO 800.
A photograph from the sighting I referred to above. This Mhangeni lioness found herself alone and outnumbered by about 20 hyenas. Luckily for her she managed to break away from the hyenas and sprinted up this tree for cover. High above the hyenas she could relax, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to climb up there after her. The problem though became how to descend the tree and she spent a good 15 minutes trying to find her way down. Lions are far heavier and more cumbersome than leopards and although they can climb trees relatively well, they often have a hard time coming down. 1/250 at f5,6; ISO 1800
The Mashaba female leopard descends a Marula Tree at sunset. Despite this photograph not being technically perfect, it’s one that captures the beauty of the moment for me. I had only just arrived in the sighting and grabbed for my camera as I saw her begin to move down the tree. As a result, my shutter speed was a bit too slow to get a sharp image. Had the tree been sharp and her slightly blurred, I would have been happier with the outcome but in my opinion, much of wildlife photography is art and art can never really be ‘wrong’. Whatever the case, this particular photograph will always remind me of a remarkably beautiful moment shared with this leopard. 1/25 at f5,6; ISO 1250
The Mashaba female leopard scans the surrounds from a Marula tree at sunset. It really was the most perfect way to end off the day. 1/100 at f5; ISO 1250