This morning I think we had our first actual traffic jam on Londolozi.
With the river flowing quite strongly, and the Pink Pouch having changed hands a couple of times in the last few weeks, the only real viable option to cross the Sand River is the Causeway, just downstream. This lies in the same direction as Winnis’ Clearing, where the Xidulu female and her cubs have been spending most of their time (more on her next week), as well as where the Matshipiri males have been mating with the Mhangeni Breakaway lionesses. It is about 300m from camp until the road starts branching and the Land Rovers can start turning off, spreading out into the reserve.
This morning, just to be inconvenient, a large rhino decided to plant himself right at that main junction, providing amazing viewing, but causing the four vehicles that wanted to cross the River, the two that wanted to look for the Xidulu female, and the one that wanted to look for the Matshipiri males all to pile-up behind each other. As easy as it may have been to just drive past the rhino, that would probably have scared him and chased him from his chosen spot, which wouldn’t have been ideal. Since he was there first and animals have right of way, everyone had to try and find alternate routes, taking the long way round to leave the rhino to graze in peace.
That story has no relevance to this post, but it was quite a feel-good situation to have everyone concede right-of-way to the hapless rhino who hadn’t planned to cause a blockage.
Having got that out the way, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A lone spotted hyena crosses the Londolozi airstrip. One of the usual dens we view hyenas and their cubs at has been quiet of late, and it was only when ranger Alfie Mathebula followed a female into the bushes that he discovered the local clan had taken up residence again in one of their old dens, not too far from the airstrip. This was quite a large individual, who we presume was making her way back to the den after a night’s foraging.
African Wild Dogs come and go through Londolozi. Of the four packs we see from time to time, this individual came from the aptly named Sands Pack (after the Sabi Sands Reserve), and in this photo is seen watching a herd of impala nearby. Although the dogs weren’t successful in this particular chase, the blood on this one’s face and neck is testament to their success earlier in the morning.
Crocodile classification can be tricky. About five years ago, only three species were recognized in Africa, but this number has now been increased to seven! A new species was discovered recently in West Africa, the Dwarf crocodile has been split into three species instead of one, and the Nile crocodile has apparently been split into two distinct species as well. Much of this is news to me, as until I looked this up earlier I was under the impression that the number stood at four. Whatever the case, this individual on the Causeway let’s it all float on by down the Sand River. A lowered shutter speed produced the blurring effect of the water.
The wrinkles in an elephant’s skin are an adaptation to help with temperature regulation, increasing the surface area of the animal and aiding heat loss.
Banded groundlings are a species of dragonfly. Found all over Africa and up into Europe, these pretty little creatures (the ones pictured here are all males) are predatory, and eat a variety of small insects like mosquitoes and midges.
A young male impala peers back from a large herd. This is actually the same herd that was chased by the wild dog from the second picture. Impala rams can be aged relatively easily by their horns when they are not fully mature, as they are all born at roughly the same time of year and the horns grow at a similar rate. This one looks to be about two years old.
A similar photo, but this time from the recent crop of lambs born in November/December. The males are just starting to show their horns now.
One of a litter of three jackal pups that live down in the grasslands. This particular litter is very relaxed around the vehicles and can provide a wonderful sighting, playing in the early morning when the weather is still relatively cool.
The Ndzanzeni female and her cub have been proving difficult to find of late, as well as difficult to follow, as the female’s territory lies in an area that has gotten incredibly thick with the recent rains.
This male nyala clearly knows where he’s going. It is a wonderful thing to live in amongst wildlife like nyala, bushbuck and vervet monkeys, who respect our presence as we respect theirs.
A brief break in the recent rains allows a splash of sunlight to fall, the proverbial pot of gold…
Not the best photo, since I had put my camera away and was heading for home, so had my settings all wrong, but this Whitebacked Night Heron is not a common sight. They are nocturnal and are best seen at one of the river crossings after dark.
Slow the shutter speed, set your frame rate to “High”, pan the camera with the running animal, hold the shutter button down, pray. That’s pretty much how it goes when trying for a panning shot, as it can be very hit-or-miss, and sometimes only one in fifty shots is usable. Thankfully the face of this one wildebeest came out relatively sharp.
The female Xidulu cub keeps her eyes on a nearby herd of impala. Although still small, this little leopard’s predatory instincts will already be finely tuned, and she will be starting to take on small game as opportunities present themselves. These cubs will be one year old in April, so should remain with their mother for some time still.
Londolozi is about family. We all consider ourselves family here, whether we’re related or not. In my favourite photo from the week, if not the year so far, 15-month-old Bella van den Heever, daughter of Alex, ex-Londolozi Head Ranger and co-founder of the Tracker Academy, and Pippa, head of Londolozi Finance, came out with us one afternoon to help collect marula fruits. Here she reaches out to gently take one from Amy Attenborough.