It would be no good working in the bush unless you had a passion for the bush itself. Sounds fairly obvious I know, but there are jobs to be had out here where bush knowledge and passion come second to one’s efficiency in the hospitality industry alone.
We are fortunate at Londolozi to be led from the front in both fields by Managing Director Chris Kane-Berman. Chris joined Londolozi way back in 1992 as a junior ranger, guiding for six years, three of which he was Head Ranger for. Leaving Londolozi for Phinda Game Reserve in Kwazulu-Natal, he returned in 2001 as General Manager, a position he held for another three years.
Having departed the Lowveld once more, Londolozi kept calling him back, and he finally returned for good in mid-2006, again as General Manager, eventually moving up to the Managing Director position, which he still holds today.
Stoff – as he is affectionately referred to by friends and staff – is probably the biggest bush-nut here, his passion rivalling that of even the most ardent nature lover on the guiding team. Whenever he has a moment off – which is seldom given his ever-demanding schedule – Stoff is to be found out in the field, camera in hand, testing out new photographic gear, keeping his tracking skills honed, or simply enjoying some peaceful bird watching. Often accompanied by Head of Finance David Dampier, whose photographic prowess has graced the blog many times before, Stoff is just as proficient when it comes to apertures, shutter speeds and the like (in fact probably better than David, but we won’t tell him that), and we felt it was a shame not to showcase some of his images.
We will be running a monthly photographic series featuring some of the top pics from Stoff’s archives, going back over a decade, but for today we just wanted to give you a small taste of some of his shots.
A portion of the Mhangeni pride and their cubs, circa 2013, look out over the Sand River at Finfoot Crossing. With the river up, the lions were confined to the southern bank for 24 hours, unwilling to lead their cubs across the deep channel which they knew might conceal a lurking crocodile.
An impala ram stares down the lens. Abundant animals at Londolozi, impala form the greatest percentage the diet of the local leopard population, and rams like this are ever-vigilant as a result.
A western stripe-bellied sand snake. Verdant greens are usually the backdrop of snake photographs at Londolozi, since they are far more active in the warmer summer months. This particular species, although one of the fastest moving we get here, is also harmless to man.
A black-headed oriole taking advantage of some of the abundant aloes that flower in the Londolozi camps in winter. Birders need not even venture out into the bush; many species are to be found around the camps, particularly some of the harder to see ones that favour riverine vegetation. Black-headed orioles are found mainly in woody savannah, and are seen regularly in the camps.
The Island female descends a marula tree, back when she was simply the Tamboti young female. We don’t see this leopard too much anymore, as she has established territory to the east of our borders.
A trio seen that was seen together fairly regularly during their day; the Camp Pan male (right), the Tamboti female (background) and the Tamboti young female. The Camp Pan male is long gone, but he was the dominant male over most of Londolozi for many years, often walking huge distances at night, and as such was very difficult to track.
A photo from the same sighting as the one above; The Tamboti female (left) plays with her daughter. Play like this between mother and offspring is an important part of developing the cub’s muscles and stalking and pouncing instincts. It also reaffirms the bond between them while the cub is still dependant.
A snake from the other end of the size spectrum to the sand snake pictured above; an African Rock Python. Large individuals like this sometimes remain hidden for months, as they can swallow a large prey item and survive off it for up to a year.
An African wild dog. These canids cover huge distances in their hunts, sometimes running right across Londolozi during the course of one game drive, and their enormous home ranges result in us not seeing them all that often. It is truly a special experience spending time with them when they do visit the reserve.
The now-deceased Tu-Tones male. This leopard, immediately identifiable by his wonky left eye, enjoyed a unique relationship with his father the Camp Pan male, sharing mating rights over females at the same time and providing some incredibly unique sightings.
A hyena looks up from a buffalo carcass to where more vultures were hopping towards it. The population of these carnivores is currently on the rise at Londolozi, without a stable male lion coalition to keep them in check. Most game drives departing camp in the early morning will encounter one or two of them as they return home from a night’s prowl.
The Majingilane with the missing canine stretches in the driving rain. We will be featuring a number of photographs of these males’ reign over the course of this photographic series, as Stoff has watched them from the day they first arrived at Londolozi.
The Dark maned and missing canine male are passed by one of the Mhangeni cubs, the next generation of the Lions of Londolozi.