This week there were elephants around every corner. On Tuesday we counted a herd of at least one hundred and fifty of the pachyderms, then yesterday morning we found one astride a termite mound, simply enjoying the view.
The leopards were almost in equal abundance. My last guests alone saw six different individuals in two days! One of the more exceptional sightings involved the Nhlanguleni female and her two playful cubs. First she killed a female impala, stashed it in a Jackalberry tree and then all three decided to have a family nap on a nearby granite boulder just before sunset.
On a different day, the Inyathini male was mating with the Tatowa female before the Ximungwe female turned up and ruined the romance.
Both the Birmingham males and the Ntsevu lionesses continue to vocalise and patrol through the heart of Londolozi, while the Tsalala female has been popping in and out of the Sand River.
The smaller creatures cannot be ignored with Epauletted fruit bats and a Verraux’s Eagle Owl both featuring today.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A large male lion from the Birmingham coalition is distracted by a go-away bird as it flies overhead, and he looks up for the briefest of moments. Up until this point the lions had been scarce and we found ourselves searching the four corners of the reserve. This lion stood on Plaque rock, sniffing the breeze in search of his brothers. Sometimes the very best sightings happen at the very last minute.
Eye to eye with the banker of the bushveld; a nickname given to this expression. This bull was part of a herd of seven old buffalo males that were grazing peacefully around the vehicles.
One of the most hardworking mother leopards on Londolozi; the Nhlanguleni female earns herself a rest while her two cubs sleep nearby.
The same sighting as the previous photograph but from a different angle. The leopard family rest on a large granite boulder, making the most of the afternoon sun.
Favouring woodland habitats and dry watercourses, the Verrauxs Eagle Owl, feeds on a wide range of vertebrate and invertebrate prey. Sounding like a boomerang passing close overhead, it’s call often permeates the stillness of a dark night.
One of the dominant and more seasoned male leopards on Londolozi, the Inyathini male walks through the dry grass patrolling his sizeable territory. Late in the morning the sighting then merged with one of the Ximungwe female and the Tatowa female as they squabbled for his affections.
Freddy Ngobeni, a long time veteran of Londolozi tracking, was so in tune with his surroundings that he heard a herd of impala alarm calling in the distance. We didn’t know what he had heard but without asking questions we rushed towards the commotion to find the Nhlanguleni female dragging a freshly caught impala towards a nearby Jackalberry tree. Wasting no time in securing the kill, she hoisted it up the trunk and into a fork. With two hungry mouths to feed in the form of her cubs, she has to hunt twice as often to ensure their survival.
An adult male giraffe stands tall on the northern end of Londolozi’s airstrip; a place that offers magnificent opportunities for shooting against a blue sky and a level horizon. There were several other giraffe behind him and we waited patiently for them to cross in a line but it was not to be.
Fellow guide James Souchon, trails behind a male lion from the Birmingham coalition and a female from the Ntsevu pride as they roar into the crisp morning air. The sound can carry up to 8 km (5 miles) on a cool morning, reaching 114 decibels at a distance of one meter. It’s something both first-time safari goers and safari veterans never fail to appreciate.
Deep in the south-west the Tatowa female and her two year old cub rest their full bellies in a marula tree. Sometime in the night she killed an adult male impala and stashed it in the same tree nearby. The following day, the Inyathini male had chased this young male away and stolen what remained of the kill.
If photographs could tell a story, this one would tell many. A large white rhino bull bears the scars of many a territorial battle. As part of his daily ritual, he was investigating a midden, going from dung pile to dung pile assessing each one before adding his own in what can only be described as rhinoceros yoga.
In an exhilarating track-and-find, three ranger/tracker teams spent the majority of the morning tracking the not-so-often viewed Styx pride in Londolozi’s northern quarter. A large pride of eleven, the Styx pride have to hunt regularly to stay fed. According to the tracks they’d traversed the width of Londolozi, hunting at intervals, finally settling down near our western boundary for the day. This cub was watching a lone vulture flying across the sky above us.
Driving across the causeway often yields bountiful bird sightings. As the migrants begin to return to the Lowveld we’re constantly scanning for new arrivals. These yellow-billed storks are fairly nomadic, often in response to water availability and fish populations, and the low numbers along Londolozi’s waterways over the last few months have bee swollen by some new arrivals.
There are arguably as many termite mounds as there are elephants but to see one on top of the other does not often happen. This young bull was casually stretching for the succulent leaves of the Brown Ivory tree above him. The clear sky in the background made for a beautiful shot that looked equally good in black and white.
Epauletted fruit bats are more often heard than seen; their high pitched ‘ping‘ pierces the night air on a near nightly basis. It is for me, having grown up in the remote Zambian bush, one of the most nostalgic of African sounds. These bats were sleeping in a Bushveld Gardenia tree.