There has been enough written about 2020 and the pandemic to keep us reading for years.
The whole world has been affected in one way or another. On our side, we have been without guests for close to six months now, so the decision to start gradually opening up the borders of the country has enabled our protected reserves and the wildlife that inhabit them to breath a collective sigh of relief. It has been so encouraging to see how many people have chosen to postpone their holidays to 2021 instead of cancelling them outright and that move alone has given us the power to keep protecting.
Having been very lucky to have spent the last half-year months here at Londolozi in lockdown a lot of people have asked if we noticed any change in animal behaviour without the presence of guests and the associated decrease in vehicles. The short answer is, no we haven’t. The only real change, from a wildlife point of view, is that with fewer people in and around the lodge, animals have been moving through camp a little bit more which has led to some interesting experiences.
From a behavioural point of view nothing has changed though. The animals that we have seen continued to provide some incredible sightings over the last six months just like they will continue to do as we head into the future.
As I sit and think back on the various sightings that I have been lucky to have seen this year I decided to go through my photo album and attempt to choose my favourite image from each of the last 6 months. Each photo was not necessarily chosen on the merit of the image alone but rather the story and the experience surrounding that particular moment in time. I can’t wait to welcome everyone back to Londolozi and share so many more experiences with you. One thing we have learnt is that there will most certainly be plenty more to come.
This was the first afternoon of Lockdown. It was a very strange feeling heading off on that afternoon drive knowing that there were no guests at Londolozi and very few people. Even though we were still in the same familiar place, there was this air of uncertainty that I am sure everyone has felt during these last months in some form or another. Then we rounded a bend in the road and lying there was the Senegal Bush male. Nothing had changed for him. That thought alone brought about just the right amount of comfort and realisation that even though so much had changed there was still plenty that hadn’t.
Rhinos love to rest on open patches of ground in the early hours of the morning and the sandy roads and riverbeds often provide just the right spot. On this particular morning we had headed into the northern parts of the reserve in search of the Nkuhuma pride of lions. On one of the straight boundary roads we saw these three rhinos from a distance before they noticed us. With a long telephoto lens I was able to zoom right in which provided the most beautiful natural frame with all the green foliage around.
May was the month of pups! This was my first ever view of a wild dog pup at a den site. The next two months that followed provided some spectacular wild dog viewing as we followed the tumultuous time that the pack of two adults had trying to raise this litter. We watched as these little pups grew in size and confidence and my best observation was how their folded over little ears grew faster than any other part of their body until in no time they were pointed straight up. We knew we weren’t going to be able to watch them forever and eventually they moved off our reserve.
It’s tough being a cheetah in these parts and although we get some great sightings they are not found here in great numbers. This is what made this June morning so spectacular. Some of the other rangers had managed to see this cheetah family on a few occasions but I had always been on the other side of the reserve and they had eluded me. On this particular morning all of this changed and I was treated to a few hours with these three as they played and hunted through the open grasslands.
For sheer comedic value this photo of a zebra foal tucked in between its parents was my favourite of the month. Everyone has a soft spot for any young animal and this foal with its oversized ears and funny smile peering over his mother’s back really made me laugh.
August provided one of the most spectacular full moon rises I have seen in a long time. We knew it was coming and found a spot on the reserve to sit and wait for it to appear in the east immediately after sunset. Wages were taken as to exactly where it would appear on the horizon. It was a magical moment in the bush shared with good friends.
Three of us were driving along the banks of the Manyelethi River. Pete was on the tracker seat and held up his hand to tell Sean to stop, he had seen something. There were leopard tracks on the road and they looked fresh. Sean then saw a hyena lying not even 5 metres from us and wondered out loudly if we thought there was a carcass nearby. At that moment all three of us looked up and got a big surprise to see the Xinzele female feeding on a hoisted bushbuck in the canopy of the tree above us. It all happened very quickly and we all laughed at how we had successfully tracked and found this leopard even though she was practically on top of us. We sat with her for the afternoon until she walked down to a pool in the river we she drank before settling on a sand bank right next to us.