Another week passes us by, with no shortage of excitement. The Tsalala lioness and her sole surviving cub were seen looking healthy in the Sand River in front of the camps, while the Ntsevu pride continued to move big distances, often apart from each other, confusing us by leaving their tracks all over the place. The Mhangeni and Styx prides also made appearances in the last week, as did two young male lions who we suspect may be from the Mhangeni and Nkahuma prides’ previous litters respectively.
Leopards were plentiful as always. Some windy conditions made hunting easier for them with at least three separate leopards hoisting impala kills into trees across the reserve on one night. As I write this a cold front with dark and windy weather is passing over – maybe more leopards will hunt successfully today and this evening?
Elephants are an almost daily occurrence in front of the lodges as the bush is drying up and the river continues to act as a lifeblood for animals in the area.
With each passing day, migratory birds are returning. Large congregations of lesser-striped swallows have been circling around waterholes, calling away. The first yellow-billed kite was seen this week circling above a kill which the Ximungwe female had made. We are thinking of placing bets on the arrival of the first woodland kingfishers and the first impala lambs, although we still have about two months to go; maybe we’re getting a bit too excited too soon?
Without further ado, enjoy This Week in Pictures…
Reaching the driest part of the year, elephants are frequently being seen around waterholes and within the Sand River in front of the Londolozi camps. Elephants can drink more than 100 litres of water in a day, but are known to be fussy about water clarity, often seeking out the cleanest water before quenching their thirst.
A male African paradise flycatcher. This beautiful bird was photographed in the Granite Private Suites car park while waiting for guests before game drive. It was flying energetically from branch to branch within a thicket, pausing briefly on this perch every now and then to look for insects. The long tail feathers of the male are used to attract a mate.
A dazzle of zebra – aptly named – gathers side by side for a drink of water at a pan in the dry south-western part of Londolozi. We were stopped here for a sundowner when the herd approached the waterhole. A great opportunity to take some shots at a low angle from out of the vehicle without disturbing the animals, seeing as how they approached us!
A rhino calf – probably in the range of about 3 years of age – lifts its head to see us better. Rhino calves can be very inquisitive, sometimes straying away from their mothers’ side to investigate something that has caught their attention. Often they will suddenly bounce away, almost as if they have spring loaded legs, back to the safety of their mother once more.
One of the two young male lions that have been seen on Londolozi lately. The pair settled in a cool drainage line for the heat of the day, emerging close to sunset to lie in the open on the edge of the waterhole. This allowed us the unique opportunity to view them almost from below, with the setting sun in the background, creating a naturally backlit subject. The older of the two males lifted his head for a few moments to watch some kudu coming down to drink. He soon flopped back onto his side to rest though, too full-bellied to be concerned with hunting.
A male cheetah lies on a mound, silhouetted by the setting sun. There isn’t too much better than an African sunset, with deep red skies created by the dust that has been kicked up over the day. Of course a cheetah lying in the foreground can make a difference…
A herd of more than 500 buffalo has been traversing Londolozi over the last few weeks. It is something special to see such large animals in congregations of this size. Their bellows and the shrill calls of the oxpeckers that associate with them can be herd quite a distance away. They typically move from waterhole to waterhole every day, leaving clouds of dust in their wake.
A while ago we posted a blog on a leucistic elephant calf, something that is very rarely seen. If one looks very carefully, you will notice the pale colouration of this elephant’s eye, lacking the maroon pigment that they normally have. It also has patches of light pink on the skin. Probably not the same individual that we saw a few months ago, but a similar – although less severe – case nonetheless. It will live a normal life for certain, but may have slightly impaired vision, particularly later in life.
A female giraffe had been staring into long grass for some time, while standing over her calf. When she eventually lost interest in whatever she was looking at, she stretched down and licked the calf a few times affectionately. The calf still had its umbilical cord, thus we estimated to be around one to two months old.
The Ximungwe female leopard and her cub jump up onto their hind legs as they play with each other. Not too long ago, the two cubs would have been entertaining each other in play, however the mother has had to take on the role of playmate now seeing as one of the two cubs is no longer alive. Mother and cub stalked, pounced and ran after each other back and forth for at least half an hour before the Ximungwe female eventually lost interest. She then climbed into a tree nearby in which she had hoisted a young impala ram carcass and began to feed.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
A buffalo calf stands among its herd as they approach a waterhole mid-morning. The herd will keep the calves in the middle of the group as much as possible to avoid having them become targets of lion or occasionally leopard if one was to wonder too far off. I caught this moment when there was a small window during which the calf was able to see us through the bodies moving back and forth in front of it.
A Mhangeni lioness sits up to watch a hyena approaching the area in which the pride had finished off a zebra that they had caught the night before. The grass was so long and the wind blowing steadily that the hyena had not yet seen the lions fast asleep in the vicinity. When you are faced with a gaze like this, you certainly think twice about coming any closer. Within no time, the hyena had its tail between its legs and was swiftly retreating.
It’s not every day you see Hyenas climbing trees. Jokes aside, this one jumped up vertically over and over… and over again, to try and reach the impala carcass that was hanging out of the Jackalberry tree. The Ingrid Dam female gazed down and did actually lift the carcass for a moment but soon realised that the hyena had absolutely no chance of reaching it. The leopardess continued to feed as if the marauding hyena was never there.
She is occasionally seen around the far north west corner of Londolozi, and is generally quite relaxed around vehicles.
A male lion from the Birmingham coalition stands tall in the morning light. He is gazing down towards the Sand River, where the Ntsevu pride and their cubs has just been seen disappearing away from the bank and towards the main flowing channel. He zig-zagged through the clearing following their scent closely, stopping now and then to lift his lips in the flehmen grimace to analyse particular places even more closely. We eventually lost view of him as we had to make a hasty retreat from a rather inquisitive elephant bull that came ambling downhill towards us and the lion at a hefty pace.
And just like that, another week in this magical place has come to an end. The only reason I know the week is over though is because it’s the day of The Week in Pictures… One thing I know for sure is that with this sunset, a sunrise of equal beauty will follow, bringing yet another week of adventures out here on the African savannah.