A lovely reminder of how beautiful change can truly be…“
Although we are in late Spring, a true transformation was observed this last week. We had over 50mm of rain, filling all the dry pans and waterholes. Most importantly though, the Sand River came down in full flow – bank-to-bank! The sound of the water rushing over the granite boulders in front of the Londolozi Camps was revitalising. Within the space of a week, the land has become a carpet of green – a real eye-pleaser. The bush is still not too thick though, so game viewing has been exceptional and photographic opportunities have been plentiful.
Leopards really capitalised on the stormy conditions with several different leopards having kills over the course of the week. The Ntsevu pride was on the eastern bank of the Sand River (out of our traversing area) as it came down in flood so have been scarce for the time being. However, the Mungheni pride moved around during this same time period looking for any hunting opportunities in both the north and south of the reserve. Elephants are no longer congregating only in the Sand River for food and water, which has made finding them a possibility anywhere across the lush reserve. The cacophony of frogs calling each evening from mud wallows has been a new addition this week, and definitely a highlight as the night sounds are diversified.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Sand River in full flow at sunset, taken from Finfoot Crossing. From two weeks ago when there was no flowing water at all to this scene is a magical transformation.
I recently drove a team of artists who have been creating beautiful ceramic animals, such as zebra. Some of these artists saw these animals for the first time in real life on game drive with us. What really captivated me was how they viewed the patterns and colours on the animals in such detail, knowing that they will replicate these patterns from their memory once back at home. Take a look at the intricate detail on the face of this zebra – how the lines change in width down the nose and how the black on the muzzle raises up slightly on each side. All little things that I have overlooked hundreds of times…
A white-backed vulture takes off having fought for a few small scraps of a carcass with about ten other vultures. The vultures used the same line to run and then take off, giving us ample opportunity to try and get the panning shot. Of about 30 shots, only this one turned out okay!
A tree squirrel pops its head out to view what the noise was outside its little cavern in the fallen tree. Some time ago, an elephant – probably 10,000 times the weight of this squirrel – would have been feeding off this tree. It probably pushed it over to try and access some of the leaves higher up. In doing so, the tree snapped, in time creating this perfect hole in which a pair of squirrels now live. The synergy between large and small out in the bush…
A spotted hyena walks in the dark of the night in the falling rain. The Ximungwe female leopard and her cub had hoisted an impala kill in a nearby tree. The hyena was walking about looking for scraps on the ground in the general area. We took the opportunity in the rain to try and get some backlit shots – the rain providing a unique opportunity to capture some different shots. Thanks to James Tyrrell for sitting getting wet shining the spotlight for us as we took the shots!
The Mashaba female flicks her tail while resting very comfortably in a Jackalberry tree. Look to the right and you will see the leg of an impala hanging down, upon which she had been feeding. With several big storms overnight during the course of the week, leopards had some great success on hunts. The dark skies and noisy thunder provide great cover when stalking antelope. The grey sky here gave a great opportunity for a black and white edit.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best-known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the vehicles.
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A Mhangeni lioness stretches having lain down for the entire day. The muscles would understandably get quite stiff from sleeping for so long. One can almost feel how good that stretch must feel by the expression on her face.
A rhino and her calf walk across an open clearing towards a waterhole. Being far enough away and slightly below the rhino, we were able to get a low angle, giving great perspective of this pair of rhino in motion.
The Nkoveni young female sitting on a termite mound overlooking the landscape. One great bonus at this time of the year is the variation in cloud cover on a day to day basis. A thin layer of cloud behind this leopard provided great texture in the sky here. A hyena had been following the female. Here she took the opportunity to gain some height to see whether the hyena was still trailing her.
A giant kingfisher perched against a green background in the Sand River. The chestnut brown breast indicates that this is a male. A female would have a mottled black breast with brown below. Interestingly, the following morning, a female was perched in exactly the same place. If we hadn’t taken a closer look, we would have assumed that it was the same individual! Clearly a great perch overlooking the flowing water from which to spot fish.
A Rhino bull exits the Sand River at sunset having come down for a drink. It’s not all that often that we see rhino in the Sand River itself, so this was a bit of a surprise sighting as we approached the sandy beach for a sundowner. He walked swiftly out of the riverbed and into the bush along the banks and was gone as quickly as he had appeared.
A male violet-backed starling. This is one of many migratory species that arrives for our southern African summer to breed. It flies all the way from sub-saharan Africa in order to reach its annual nesting areas. The males have this beautiful iridescent violet back, which stands out amazingly against the green of the bush at the moment. Females have the same body shape but have a brown back and stripy chest.
A young elephant shuffles along the riverbed in front of us so as not to get left behind. As their speed increases, elephants’ tails seem to extend further and further out. I attempted the slow shutter approach here to capture the motion and switched to black and white to emphasise the textures of the skin.
The Ximungwe female leopard glances over her shoulder having just had a sip of water. The mother and her sub-adult youngster had been seen with an impala kill that was not yet hoisted in a tree one evening. Both very full and very hot, the pair of leopards was resting in the shade of some bushes until sunset. We watched the mother lift the carcass in her jaws and glance up a tree, expecting her to jump and hoist at any second. However, she seemed unwilling to go through the effort and left it on the ground, moving to this small green pan for a drink instead.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
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Arguably one of the most breathtaking areas on Londolozi. The prominent granite boulders are an impressive feature along the bank of the wide open Manyelethi River. We had just missed the Tsalala lioness and her cub disappearing into the Sand River one afternoon. We looped around to the other side of the river with little hope, but were delighted to find tracks of them leaving the River. Within minutes, we surprised ourselves as we came across this beautiful scene of the two of them lying in the sandy Manyelethi Riverbed. I use a series of portrait shots here, stitched together in Lightroom to create the panoramic.
Amazing pics Pete. Love the violet backed starling and the Mashaba female.
Pete, great pictures this week. Fabulous cover photo.
My heart sings for the rains! So glad. Beautiful Mashaba.
Loved the violet backed starling; what a spectacular bird. What a contrast: I see on my phone that it’s to be 104F in Londolozi while it’s 34F here in California.
Cheers for the rain! Wonderful group of photos to celebrate Friday, especially the backlit hyena. Thanks Pete!!
Pete, I loved the photo of violet backed starling🤗
Thank you Pete for these beautiful pictures, I also love the Violet backed Starling!
That Violet backed starling is stunning. I remember being blown away by the greater blue eared starling I saw when I was at Londolozi. And how ironic that starlings world-wide are almost universally despised and slaughtered. A great book to read, by the way, is “Mozart’s Starling” by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.
My favourite email of the week
Nice work on getting that photo of the violet backed starling, they’ve never sat still whenever I’ve seen them!!
A really lovely blog Pete for TWIP. A nice mix of wildlife and beautiful shots. Loved the zebra pic – amazing markings on the face. Thanks for sharing with us.
Joining the crowd, applauding the beautiful male violet-backed starling.
Great pictures!!! Thanks for the update on the Tsalala lioness and her cub. How close are the other two prides, Mhangeni and Ntesvu to her location? I watch the latest video of her and the little one, they both look in great shape! I guess she inherited all the excellent skills from her Aunt and Grand mother!
Hey Pete, we’re headed your way shortly. LOVE the dung beetle photo! My favourite mighty beasts. Will surely be seeking those out on our return to Londolozi. Hoping our paths cross.