Have you ever been someplace and felt you’d been there before, even though you knew you hadn’t? Have you ever been to the African bush?
I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and have spent most of my adult life in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve seen all the National Geographic and BBC specials about the origins of humankind in Africa and how we spread across our planet. But when I came to Africa for the first time, I unexpectedly felt I knew it, felt I belonged in some unknown way. I felt I’d been here before. Eight trips later I still feel it. It may sound silly to some, maybe wacky to others, but the bush is my “happy place.” And Londolozi is my special home in the wild.
Our experiences of the land, the wildlife, the people, the food and the accommodations make memories Bob and I savour year after year. What amazing things we’ve seen and what amazing things we’ve done! Our fifth stay, in 2018, is sure to be unforgettable! In the meantime, here are some of our favorite images from our recent adventures with ranger Nick Kleer and tracker Mike Sithole. Big things and small, all are special in the wild….
The massive twisted horns of a mature kudu bull are what usually grab all the attention. But this quiet scene of a female kudu and her calf at sunset struck me as special in its own way.
The Xidulu young male, about 11 months old, had just caught a banded mongoose as we spotted him. The leopard seemed surprised that he’d caught it and we got the sense that he was showing it off to us before he carted it off to a pile of weeds and brambles near the drainage line. Unfortunately for him, he hadn’t quite killed it and it got away – with quite a story to tell!
Two of the mighty Majingilane coalition of four brothers. They’ve ruled Londolozi and surrounding properties as the dominant males for many years. We’ve been seeing them since our first visit in 2010. Still so impressive, they recently lost one brother and their rule may be coming to an end soon, but it was wonderful to see them again. Their scarred faces reflect the rough life of a male lion.
The impressive Torchwood Male ambled confidently onto Londolozi property, going from one termite mound to another, searching the area for both competition and food. First, he went unsuccessfully after a porcupine and then we saw him leap into the air like a serval and catch a small button quail, which he proceeded to munch down in the tail grass next to us.
Torchwood is such a handsome and impressive male, I had to include another image of him, this time looking up into the sky at a vulture.
This photo shows how long the grass is now! The summer rains brought tremendous growth of the grasses that are starting to yellow.
Who can resist a baby elephant! On the afternoon of our first drive, his little guy was showing us how grownup he is, tossing his ears out wildly and checking us out with his still-not-very-under-control trunk!
The Tamboti female is one of my favourite leopards at Londolozi. This year she is pregnant and due soon – and looking as uncomfortable as any soon-to-be Mom I’ve ever known!
This Nyala bull was not as skittish as most and stopped behind a tree to eye us carefully. Both his horns and his size are impressive.
What a sight – the Inyathini male mating with the Mashaba female! We were transfixed, never having seen two leopards mating. The act is loud and violent and repeated as often as every 10 minutes! The female is always the temptress – and the Mashaba female has been busy, having mated with the Piva, Flat Rock male and Inyathini males recently.
Can you guess what it is? A Southern ground hornbill on a tree stump, silhouetted against the setting sun. It was interesting to me to see the space in his beak when it’s closed. Listed as endangered in South Africa, we saw a number of them during our drives.
The male and female cubs of Xidulu, almost a year old and so playful! They chased each other on the ground, up into trees, tumbled and tossed with each other. As cubs with a sibling, they have such a good time that I can’t help feel sorry for single cubs!
Here, the female had just regained her balance after almost falling to the ground – and her brother awaited to nip at her bottom!
Another sprint up the tree…
The three youngest cubs of the Tsalala pride, looking curiously at us one morning. They’ll make quite a coalition in years to come!
The Mashaba female making her ‘move’ on a sleeping Piva male, but she had no luck with him this time. He’d stolen the hoisted kill of the Nkoveni female, eaten most of it, slept for a time then polished it off in the dark while dropping bits to waiting hyenas. The Mashaba female patiently waited to eat and/or to mate, but Piva was focused on is his food and chased her away.
The Mashaba female was persistent but, when turned away, finally left the Piva male to his meal and his nap – for now!
The female ostrich, now a Mom of three, welcomed us back by coming over to our vehicle and pecking at it and Nick just like she did two years ago!
I was fascinated by her plumage…
The Flat Rock male looking very intimidating as he walked toward us – just before he almost stumbled upon the Tsalala pride. He quickly changed direction and headed into the bush!
We hated to leave after two weeks, but we’ll be back at Londolozi in 2018 for more adventures!
Written and Photographed by Mary-Beth Wheeler