It sounds a bit ridiculous to say that there’s a certain amount of worry that accompanies any return to Londolozi after two weeks of leave. The anxiety is even more prevalent when that leave has been taken out of signal, with no connectivity, no contact with the outside world, and no way of keeping tabs on things back home. With life in the bush being such a fragile thing, it’s not unheard of to return back to Londolozi and be confronted with a totally different dynamic in the predator populations than the one you were following when you left. I generally won’t feel completely settled again until I’m up-to-date with what’s happening out there; are all cubs still alive? Has such-and-such a female given birth? etc. Once I have all the facts straight in my head, it’s all systems go, and I can relax once more.
A few weeks ago I was away for a wedding. It was literally a 48 hour trip, yet while I (we) were away, the Mashaba female’s latest litter was killed by the Ndzanzeni young male. Her previous three litters were all born when I was on leave. Following the day-to-day of the bush, you realise just how quickly things can change, the status quo can shift, and the trajectory of an animal’s life can be redirected overnight. Even the landscape can change drastically in a short time. Things were already looking dry when I left for my latest leave, and I didn’t really think there was that much vegetation to be eaten, yet in only 14 days the landscape was further denuded, and the rains are going to get here just in time.
That’s another change that’s imminent. From the lunar to the verdant; the flush that will take place after the first big downpour is almost supernatural. If you happen to be taking your two week break over that time, you won’t recognize the place when you return.
Change. The only constant out here.
There are lessons to be learnt everywhere in the bush. Fortunately we only take on the status of observers, so for us, the lessons don’t usually have to be learnt the hard way, as they are for some of Africa’s wild inhabitants. But from the smallest birds to the landscape as a whole, nature’s mirror is always there for us to look into. Reflections of our own lives or parts of ourselves are often staring us in the face, but one needs to be open to them in order to mine the real value. The beauty of the African wilderness is that in it you can find the stillness you need to quieten the inner noise. And think. And be.
The truth is that whatever the lessons are that we might be able to glean from the animal sightings we bear witness to, not all of them will be relevant to everyone. For some they will be no more than amazing animal interactions. For others, reflections of self and life-changing.
I think the lessons are there when they need to be, and the same thing can be interpreted completely differently by two different people. And can have just as much impact for both. I’m not trying to be particularly profound here, I’m more just musing on things in general, after a quick browse-back of what I saw before I went on leave, what’s been happening while I was gone, and what’s taking place right now in the bush. And I happened to have a keyboard in front of me so thought I’d just put some of those thoughts down.
Anyway, I’ll sign off before I start waffling properly. As it turns out there was nothing to worry about at all. The Mashaba female has been mating again (more on that next week). The Ntsevu pride still have a full complement of cubs. We believe that 5 females have given birth now, but with the lions crossing into and back out of Londolozi all the time, and no one having seen all the cubs together, it’s hard to say anything conclusively just yet.
The Nkoveni female and Nhlanguleni female’s cubs are all alive and well, and life continues as normal for Londolozi’s high-profile inhabitants.
The rain is imminent, the impala ewes are about to give birth… it’s going to be an amazing Summer!