To co-inhabit an area with another species for over a decade without even seeing it is testament to how rare Cape clawless otters are at Londolozi.
This is the track-record of former Head Ranger and now Head of Technical Services, Chris Goodman. After being teased over and over by Londolozi staff who had seen one here, Chris eventually had a fleeting glimpse of an otter from Granite Camp deck, but nothing like the experience we recently had while tracking in the Sand River.
The crazy thing is that otters thrive in the thickets and streams of the Sand River that flows right past the five Londolozi camps. We see their tracks all the time. We just never see the animals.
As a small group of rangers, we had set off to try and track a lioness that we suspected might denning small cubs somewhere along the banks of the River near Taylor’s Crossing. Not even five minutes into the tracking expedition, the pack of two wild dogs suddenly chased an impala past our parked vehicle, about 300 metres behind us. All dumfounded as to their sudden reappearance, James Tyrrell rushed back to the Land Rover, taking the opportunity to follow and document them. If only he knew what we were about to stumble across.
Something caught our eye up ahead in a small gap in some bushes. We paused, well aware of the risk of hippos moving about in the thickets. There was a hippo, but just behind it, were two crocodiles and not one but two otters!
The otters were sliding in and out of a small pool. They would then climb onto the sand where the crocodiles were resting, taunting them by nipping at their tails and running circles around them. It seemed as if they were trying to chase the crocodiles back into the water. We rushed at the opportunity to loop around for a better view, knowing full well that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at Londolozi, especially on foot!
Fortunately, we found a perfect window to view them from about 20 metres away without them even noticing us. The crocodiles slipped into the water as we got the clear view, just before we started filming. The otters can be seen sniffing around in circles on the sand where the crocodiles had been resting, moments before: