This year has certainly been a little unreal.
A LOT unreal would probably be closer to the mark.
When we said goodbye to our last guests back in March, the idea of an entire winter in the bush with no visitors was pretty much incomprehensible. But now the knobthorn trees are flowering once more, the migrant birds are returning, and we’re about to reset our rain-gauges to zero for the start of another annual measure (we record rainfall from the start of September to the end of the following August).
Wahlberg’s eagles have flown to North Africa, spent a season there, and are now returning again. Other avian visitors have been to Russia and back over the same period.
And while it’s crazy to think that this year’s crop of impala lambs will be born in a couple of months and the summer rain clouds will soon be brimming on the horizon while much of the world is still in lockdown, it’s a wonderful reminder of the relentlessness of nature’s cycles.
We have been asked many times whether or not we have seen a change in animal behaviour since the start of lockdown with fewer people at the lodge, and apart from the Finfoot female leopard regularly hunting bushbuck through the camp, the answer is no; the animals in the wider reserve have continued as normal. A few shifts in territory amongst themselves, but just like every year, the impala are browsing a lot right now (the grazing is poor and they can switch between the two), the elephant herds are spending a lot of time near the Sand River, and the hippos are bellowing for territory as the lowering water levels of winter result in cramped conditions for them.
Londolozi’s wildlife doesn’t know what’s happening in the rest of the world. It doesn’t care. Their dramas – although we try to follow them as closely as possible and record them through our lenses – take place regardless of whether we’re watching or not.
I’ve heard a number of misconceptions about the greater reserve over the years, in which the sightings are referred to as unrealistic, mainly because of the high density of big cats and their regular proximity to the Land Rovers, but the reality is in fact the opposite.
The wildlife is doing exactly what it would if we were not even here. This is natural behaviour at its finest.
If we packed up and left tomorrow, just removed everything – lodges, vehicles, the whole shebang – I can guarantee you that the Piccadilly female would still be stashing her cub on Southern Cross Koppies, the elephants would still be frequenting the river, and the only thing that would happen would be that the local nyala population would have just a tiny bit more living room where Varty Camp deck once stood.
This female is most often encountered near the Sand River to the east of the Londolozi camps.
I think for those of us who have been at the lodge over the last six months, seeing the inexorable march of the natural processes through the season’s change has been a poignant reminder of just how important a low impact is on the environment, and not just at Londolozi, but everywhere.
If Londolozi did have a large footprint, if our procedures did alter natural wildlife behaviour, then most likely yes, we would have seen a change since the start of lockdown.
The fact that we haven’t is testament to the work the lodge – and indeed all lodges in the greater reserve – is/are doing to ensure that the wilderness area we are in remains in as pristine a state for posterity as possible.
It’s a reminder to all of us that nature simply gets on with it.
The best thing we can possibly do is leave it entirely to its own devices. It, after all, knows best…
Filed under General Nature Wilderness teachings Wildlife
Lovely blog James.
It had happened everywhere in the world especially where there are hotspots… I am amazed at the crystalline sea and the amount of life in the sea of compared to the years before. I am sure it is the same in South Africa and especially in Londolozi.
Amen to that! You are very right, thank you for the blog.
Londolozi is love for the animals and our environment
I’m amazed that some people really think it’s an “unnatural experience”, surely they haven’t actually been there? Perhaps they think you bribe the leopards – e.g walking up close to the vehicle nets them 1 juicy impala, mating a few yards away qualifies them for 2 impalas each – obviously this would have to be factored up for a large pride of lions such as the Ntsevu! The reality of course is the wildlife flourishes independently of you all at Londolozi , because of Dave and John Varty’s work with Dr Ken Tinley on repairing the land all those years ago.
So true James that we, in Europe, have noticed a massive change in our surrounding wild life and sea creatures all because we continue to encroach on their ground. It has been wonderful to see unusual sightings after so many years and one hopes that politicians will start to make the environment a priority! Without nature we will surely perish, without humans, nature will thrive. Thank you to Londolozi and all reserves for helping to keep the balance in favour of nature.🙏🏻💕
James, I loved the blog today🤗
This is for all these reasons we – and many others – are “addicted” to Londolozi. Thanks James and all!
Thank you James for your candidness relating to human impact in private game reserves and the effect they have on the animals and trees/vegetation.
As a safari participant since the late ‘80’s, I’ve yet to witness any overt behavior by any property that would impinge on the well being of all species within their boundaries. It’s a very real experience for me to observe animals up close, so close I’ve felt and smelled the breath of some ….. they had no idea who I was or why I was there-that’s true, uncompromised nature.
Where I live in Alberta, Canada, there are 2 National Parks – Jasper & Banff. Both have substantial elk herds which learned that it was safer to be “in town” where all the people were than further out where their natural predators were. Since lock down and less people in the towns, the predators have been coming in more frequently. So in this case, man has definitely altered the order of things. On one other note, although this has nothing to do with covid it does has something to do with how man changes the nature of things. In Jasper, the trains carrying grain would often stop in Jasper & some of the grain would trickle out onto the tracks. Once the elk discovered this, they would head to the tracks to feed. The park moved a herd of elk to another park up in northern Alberta & the elk were so habituated to finding grain on the railway tracks that many of them were killed when they were hit by trains. I commend Londolozi for all their environmental practices & their low impact on the land. It really does make a difference & some day I plan on coming & visiting & experiencing it for myself. Thank you for all you do.
Very true, James!
Every afternoon I am looking forward to a new Londolozi Story; it’s one of the highlights of my day. Today’s is again very interesting and I can only completely agree with you, James. On my many trips to the bush I have often come across such “unrealistic” sightings of all kinds of animals, especially leopards, my favorites.
Thank you, I have been wondering – I suppose the big concern for all of the Kruger is poaching .
Best wishes and I hope that at some point the guests start to return
Well done indeed!
Interesting thoughts, James. It’s comforting, in some ways, to know that the cycle of life continues, with us or without us; that we are all truly lucky to be able to peek into that unchanging world and share it if only for a short while. Man really does to need to tread lightly on the earth to ensure that the cycle continues unhampered.
We agree James, There is no doubt that the rehabilitation of the greater reserve has increased the natural environment for the wildlife – truly a testment to those two young Varty men and their insatiable dreams!
So fall is ending and winter will gradually arrive. And before you know it spring will be here!! I have to say it never occurred to me that anything in the park was not nature at work!! Extremely bizarre! Thanks for one more wonderful morning!! Victoria
A nice thought provoking blog James. I am certain that you all miss the guests, but to the animals it matters less. As you say, life goes on in the animal world. We live in uncertain times right now and who knows when things will return to normal – whatever normal will be once this virus is stopped. Thanks for keeping us up to date on the happenings in the bush. To all at Londolozi – take care, be well and stay safe.
So true, James. It is a comforting thought that if you took Man away off the planet, it might just heal itself until OUR Footprint would eventually vanish too most probably, difficult thought that may seem to us who think ourselves SO VERY important. Wendy M
Londolozi… once you have been… you will never be the same. ❤️ Thank you for being a part of my heart & soul. There couldn’t be anything more really…
Another great week ‼️
Great blog, thank you!
Brilliant, and an excellent reminder!!