Jacqui Marais, our Head of Sales, spends quite a bit of time moving back and forth between Johannesburg – where Londolozi’s Head Office is based – and the lodge itself.
She never fails to make the trip down to the Lowveld without her camera, and annoyingly for the rest of us, always seems to have the most fantastic luck when it comes to sightings, even if she’s only down here for 24 hours. Having been with the Londolozi team for roughly 1o years now, she’ll probably argue that it’s experience that counts, but we’re sure she has some tricks up her sleeve that she’s not telling us about.
Jacqui was at the lodge again a few days ago, and despite her busy work schedule, managed to make it out on a couple of drives, some of the results of which she presents below.
Enjoy Jacqui’s Week in Pictures…
A tell-tale sign that there is another leopard nearby is the salivating of an individual, as seen here on the Flat Rock male. Male and female leopards do not compete for territory, so it is usually same-sex competition that results in these long saliva strings, but in this instance the male was following the Mashaba female. Perhaps there was another male nearby that we were not aware of, but whatever the case, the Flat Rock male was pretty intent on following the Mashaba female’s scent trail. f5, 1/800s, ISO 800
The Mashaba female in the same sighting, a couple of hundred metres ahead of the Flat Rock male. She has been frequenting a densely vegetated drainage line near the Londolozi airstrip of late, and it was through this tangle of bushwillow thickets that she led the male, allowing for only the occasional glimpse of her when she moved through a gap in the foliage or crossed the road. f6.3, 1/800s, ISO 1000
How often do you see two birds shout at each other? It appears as if this is exactly what they’re doing in this photo, as a Woodland kingfisher comes screaming in to mob an African Harrier-hawk. Harrier-hawks possess incredibly flexible, almost double-jointed legs, which allows them to raid the nests of cavity-nesting birds, which the Woodland kingfisher is. The kingfisher may well have had a nest in this tree, but more likely it just resented the presence of the hawk and was encouraging it to leave. f7, 1/4000s, ISO 800
The remaining Tsalala cub. With the pride seemingly in disarray at the moment, rejoining one day and then splitting the next, no one can say for sure what their future holds. f5.6, 1/125s, ISO 1000
The world’s tiniest hippo calf and its mother. This waterhole forms part of the extensive drainage system that the Mashaba female was leading the Flat Rock male down, and we happened to spot the tiny hippo as it came up for a breath. Very shy at such a young age, it spent most of its time hiding on the far side of its mother, but we were fortunate to have it come round to our side for a brief photographic opportunity. f7.1, 1/800s, ISO 640
Pied Kingfishers are master hunters. We happened to be parked up on the bank of a waterhole when this one started fishing in front of us, and this photo shows him at the exact moment he tucked in his wings and began his plummet down towards the water. We can tell it’s a male by the double breast band; females only have a single black line on their breast. f7.1, 1/1250s, ISO 1000
No sunrise is complete in the bush without the shrill staccato call of the crested francolin. This individual and its covey had been scratching around in some elephant dung for their breakfast. Since elephants have relatively poor digestive systems, there is usually a bounty of undigested seeds to be found in their dung (as well as dung beetles and other insects), which birds like francolins, spurfowls, hornbills and guineafowl can often be seen taking advantage of. f4.5, 1/200, ISO 1000
Another kingfisher species, this time Africa’s largest; the Giant. Like the pied kingfisher pictured above, these birds can be sexed by the markings on their breasts. The male (pictured here) has a rufous chest, whilst the female has a black spotted breast and rufous belly. An easy way to remember it is to imagine the rufous patch as a garment; males wear a shirt, females wear a skirt. Both sexes are more than capable of catching and consuming fish that represent a significant percentage of their body mass, as this one has done. The fish will be killed and tenderised by beating it on the branch, then swallowed headfirst. f5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 640
A pair of African fish eagles share a dead knobthorn tree. Unlike the kingfishers, these eagles are very difficult to sex, with their colouration being almost identical. Size-wise the females of eagle species tend to be larger than the males, but unless they’re sitting together, it is hard to tell. With these two, it appears as though the one on the right is slightly larger, making her the female. Fish eagle males also call at a higher pitch than the females. f9, 1/2000s, ISO 320
The younger Tsalala lioness (it’s difficult knowing who is who in this pride these days) crosses the Sand River at Finfoot Crossing in front of ranger Guy Brunskill’s vehicle. Renowned for hunting in the day, the pride was on the move in the late morning, moving in and out of the Phragmites thickets in an attempt to surprise any unwary antelope they could chance upon. f7.1, 1/1000s, ISO 640
Hamerkops are better known for their prowess at frog catching along the edges of waterbodies, but they are excellent fishers as well, flying low over the water to startle a school, then plucking one deftly from the water with their beak. f7.1, 1/3200s, ISO 1000
The Mashaba female looks up from where she was drinking in a stream bed near camp. A similar picture featured on the Londolozi Instagram feed a few days ago and was from this same sighting. The Tsalala pride were lying barely two metres from our vehicle when this photo was taken, watching the leopard, but she never knew they were there… f5, 1/800s, ISO 800
A mating pair of Wahlberg’s eagles. This species comes in a wide range of colour morphs, from rich gold to dark brown and almost white. This picture illustrates the opposite ends of the spectrum. f7.1, 1/400s, ISO 640
One of the Majingilane males sniffs the breeze as he follows the trail of the Mhangeni pride. As this coalition is entering what for male lions is old age, I don’t know how many times I’ll get to see them again… f5, 1/400s, ISO 2000
Unmistakeable. The Scar-nosed male from the Majingilane, staying close to his brothers. f5, 1/400s, ISO 1250
The same backlit profile that has been present in the Sabi Sands for the better part of a decade. These male lions will leave behind a legacy. f5.6, 1/100s, ISO 2500
Isolated in gold. The male with the missing canine seems to be the outsider now, with the Scar-Nosed and Dark Maned males seemingly having as unbreakable a bond as ever. f4, 1/250s, ISO 2500