It has been an exciting week at Londolozi. The May chill has allowed many of the predators to be active late into the morning, providing us with some spectacular game viewing. A prominent feature of this week has been the deep groans and bellows of duelling hippos bulls, fighting for the best water sources throughout the night and early mornings as levels in the river and waterholes drop.
There has also been some incredible leopard viewing; we have seen two young male leopards for the first time this week, although with the area they were seen in effectively claimed by the huge Anderson male, it’s doubtful they’ll stick around.
The leopard population as a whole continue to capitalise on the opportunities of the late impala rutting, however this will shortly come to an end.
Lion viewing has been the best in months, and we have had regular sightings of the Ntsevu pride as well as the Birmhingham males. At least two of the Ntsevu lionesses continue to mate with that coalition, and we were very fortunate to witness two of the males stand toe to toe with each other for mating rights with one of the females.
For now though, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
One of the Birmingham males pauses after mating with an Ntsevu lioness as he hears one of his brothers calling into the distance. Lions have incredible senses of hearing and this allows them to hear calls from over 10km away in still conditions. f 6.3, 1/800s, ISO 640.
The sun rises on this misty morning as we watch, humbled, from one of my favourite places to watch the sun rise on Londolozi; Finfoot Crossing. We experience some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets through out the winter months. f8, 1/6400s, ISO 800.
Two members of a pack of wild dogs feeding on the remains of an impala kill. One of the 8 members of this pack managed to kill an impala, however while looking for the rest of the pack the kill was stolen by hyenas. Wild dogs, being such successful hunters, will often be trailed by hyena waiting for them to kill something and then run in to steal the kill from the wild dogs. The alpha female of this pack is heavily pregnant and looks like she will give birth soon. Lets hope it’s on Londolozi! f 6.3, 1/500s, ISO 640.
The Flat Rock male watches some impala from the cover of a thicket. Realising that this opportunity was most likely not a good one, he decided to rather keep himself concealed and moved off without alerting anything to his presence. Leopards will analyze a situation before hunting, using their energy in the most efficient way and not wasting it on a situation that they know will almost certainly not be rewarding. f 7.1, 1/400s, ISO 400.
A leopard who took advantage of the death of the 4:4 male in 2016 to grab territory to the west of the Londolozi camps.
This young elephant bull finds joy at this waterhole on a warm afternoon. Elephants like to roll around in the mud and spray water and mud all over their body.; mainly to cool the body down as well as to clean small parasites off their hides. f 7.1, 1/640s, ISO 320.
Two giraffe move from one acacia to another, feeding in the gorgeous morning. Giraffe often feed into the wind as Acacia species have evolved to protect themselves with high tannin levels and can alert each other to the feeding of a herbivore by releasing chemicals into the wind. These chemicals can only blow downwind though, which means the giraffes can sidestep this tree defence by feeding upwind. f 6.3, 1/800s, ISO 800.
Two young hippo bulls play fight early one morning in the Sand River. This playful behaviour is crucial for their survival one day as it is a learning experience for when they themselves have to fight for breeding rights later on in life. f6.3, 1/640s, ISO 800.
What a privilege to be able to have a chance to view these young cheetah cubs. A mother and two cubs were viewed for a few days in the northern regions of Londolozi. The mother had managed to kill an impala a day prior to this photograph and the group was seen here resting and digesting their meal. f 6.3, 1/400s, ISO 800.
A lilac-breasted roller takes off from its perch. These have to be my favourite birds to photograph in flight, which can be quite difficult to get the timing right. The best way to capture this photograph is to make us of a high shutter speed to capture the fast movement. Then lock the focus, and as the roller tilts its tail is how one can often tell it’s about to take flight. Having locked the focus, shoot away in the highest possible frame rate and hope for the best. f 6.3, 1/1600s, ISO 640.
One of the Birmingham males walks around searching for the scent of a lioness after a massive fight with one of his brothers for the mating rights; you can see the blood on the side of his face from the battle that happened minutes before I took this photograph. Lionesses will mate with as many males as possible during the period of oestrus to try and ensure the survival of their cubs. f 6.3, 1/400s, ISO 640.
These two zebras from a large dazzle wade a few meters into the waterhole for a drink. This is something I have not witnessed on a regular occasion. Most often zebras – and other animals – drink while standing on the dry banks of the waterhole as they know they are vulnerable to a crocodile attack or an attack from lions from behind. f 7.1, 1/640s, ISO 320.
A Verreaux’s eagle owl perches on a dead knobthorn as it waits patiently for some prey item to catch its eye. They are the largest owl that we see at Londolozi. They have a wide range of prey, from animals half the size of a grown monkey, an warthog piglet and even large birds such as herons and diurnal raptors, amphibians, reptiles and bushbabies. f 5.6, 1/160s, ISO 1600.
A rhino cow and calf enjoy a wallow in some mud in the afternoon. Rhino, as well as elephants, warthogs and buffalo, use the mud for cooling their bodies as well as cleaning parasites off their tough skin. I just loved they way the calf rested its chin on the back of its mother. This is one of the ways these animals will bond. f 5, 1/320s, ISO 800.
A young hyena cub curiously approaches the vehicle while chewing on a small stick. Hyena cubs are inquisitive animals and will often investigate something new. They regularly chew on branches and sticks lying around the den as this is how they develop those powerful jaw muscles that are required later on in life when crushing bones. f 5.6, 1/320s, ISO 500.
A herd of impalas sound the alarm at a passing lioness early in the morning. Impalas as well as other prey species will alarm call at predators to let the predator know they have been seen and that the element of surprise is gone. This causes the predator to lose interest and move on as it realises it has almost zero chance of a successful kill. f 6.3, 1/1250s, ISO 640.
A large breeding herd of elephants moves through a clearing as they make their way to the Sand River for a drink. Elephants are particular about the quality of the water they drink and prefer to drink the cleaner flowing water in the river when possible. The large females also surround the young calves as they move past the vehicle. f 8, 1/500s, ISO 250.
The Hosana male leopard typically spends most of his time north of Londolozi. However we were lucky enough to view him three times during this week. Here he keeps watch from atop a termite mound, focusing on some impala rutting in the distance. Leopards use termite mounds as vantage points to look for any opportunities as well as to look for any danger; given that he was deep in the Anderson male’s territory, he was wise to be keeping a lookout. f 6.3, 1/400s, ISO 320.