For those of you who may have been caught up in the festive season a bit too much to stay up to date with the Londolozi Blogs through December, you could have easily missed my previous post A Reawaken of the Senses: Sounds of Londolozi.
I’ll leave it up to you to read the first two paragraphs of that post (and the rest if you haven’t already seen it) in order to see my rationale for presenting a slightly alternative piece in the first place, which looked to explore some of the more iconic sounds that one might hear during a stay at Londolozi.
But for now we’ll move onto Part 2.
Initially, I didn’t intend to make a Part 2 but I found that the last post was well received by some readers who put forward some of their recommended sounds that they remember from their time on safari – many of which I too feel deserve some recognition, and so Part 2 was set in motion.
I hope these sounds take you back to a fond memory made in the wilderness…
Cape Turtle Dove (Ring-Necked Dove)
This rather unsuspecting bird was mentioned by two bloggers in the comments section of my last post and upon consideration, most certainly deserves a place in the list of iconic sounds. With this grey, not-particularly-exciting bird being found across most of Southern Africa it is often overlooked as just another dove. And for the most part it is.
But its call is something that will always remind one of Africa. Personally, this call takes me back to a chilly, dry winter’s morning. Bundled up in the game viewer with scarves, gloves and beanies on and setting off with the sun only just peeking over the horizon – the call of the Cape Turtle Dove ringing from all directions. Rangers and anyone really interested in birding often have little sayings that we attach to bird calls in order to remember them a little easier and I have heard several from the Cape Turtle Dove but my favourite being that the bird is singing “Work-harder, work-harder“! So if that doesn’t motivate you to get out and about on an cold winter’s morning I don’t know what will!
This one I’ll admit completely slipped under my radar on the previous post. With the great Sand River stretched out in front of the camps as well as a large watering hole on the eastern outskirts of Varty and Tree Camp, the unmistakable grunt and snort of the hippos can be heard year-round from the guests’ rooms. For first timers on safari, the sound can be quite an ominous one, making you feel like you’re in a scene out of Jurassic Park. But after you’ve settling in, the hippos’ calls simply form part of the melodic ambience of the bush.
These calls can carry over several kilometres, and can actually be felt like a lion’s roar if you happen to be near the hippo that is grunting. Interestingly, one of the hippo’s relatives is the whale and one of the key characteristics that they share is a near-identical voice-box, specially designed for communicating beneath the surface of the water.
The call of a tree squirrel is probably not known to many and may still not be familiar to guests that have even visited Londolozi before. But those that have spend extended time in this type of environment, searching for predators would have, on several occasions, been alerted to or led in the right direction of a leopard by the frantic alarm call of the tree squirrel. They aren’t always reliable -they alarm at raptors, snakes and even each other occasionally – however, they are still reliable just enough amount of times to not be ignored when searching for a predator.
African Fish Eagle
Along with the roar of a lion, the call of the African Fish Eagle could just be the signature sound of Africa. Given their dietary preference of fish, they are several breeding pairs of fish eagle spread out along the Sand River in front of the camps and beyond. Their striking appearance with a clean white head, yellow face and dark rusty body is likened to that of the American Bald Eagle but it is more often their call that catches peoples attention. If however you are fortunate enough to see one call you’ll notice their rather strange habit of tossing their head backwards over their shoulders either in flight or while perched. As is the case with most raptors, the female is larger than the male and has a deeper call.
Frog calls are often forgotten for a large portion of the year and many of the rangers, including myself, find themselves on the back-foot come summer time, puzzling alongside a small waterhole at dusk trying to rack their brains as to which frog is making that familiar call that hasn’t been heard for months!
The amphibian reference books then get dusted off (well not really because we all rely on the “Frogs of Southern Africa” app. on our cell phones, but you get what I mean) and we soon begin to enjoy the frog melodies of the summer nights again. If you listen to this frogs call you’ll quickly learn where the ‘bubbling’ part of its name comes from as it sounds exactly like a bubble popping. Given the recent rains that have fallen over Londolozi a number of the ephemeral pans have filled with water and with that has come a resurgence of Bubbling Kassinas. Keep a listen out for them if you happen visit during summer.
Most people who have spent time at Londolozi in recent years will tell you that you never see black-backed jackals here. And for the most part they’re correct. Their diminutive size (jackals only weigh around 12-15kg at the most) means they are easily out competed by the high densities of larger carnivores in the area such as hyena, lion and leopard. But that being said, you do occasionally come across them in certain parts of the reserve and I have personally seen black-backed jackal in the south-western open areas on three occasions in the past 2 weeks, on which two of the occasions we found them by following their ominous high pitched call. Does this mean the jackal population at Londolozi is on the rise? Not necessarily. I could have just been seeing the same jackals as they do occupy small territories as life-long mating pairs. However, back to the call. They typically call during the winter months when they are mating but can be heard all year round and, like several other animals in this series of sounds, can provide a pretty reliable alarm call if there happens to be a large predator in the area.
The list of amazing sounds that fill the air at Londolozi could go on and on. The orchestra that ranges from different birds, great and small to the many species of frogs and toads all form part of the experience at Londolozi; some of them you won’t miss when out on drive or walking, but others you may have to take a minute to stop and listen closely to in order to really appreciate them.