I enjoy this whole Memory Lane thing.
Even five years later I can still remember most of these sightings like they were yesterday. In fact driving through the reserve with Habitat Manager Chris Goodman this morning, we found ourselves reminiscing on our first drive together, just shy of ten years ago, when Chris was Head Ranger and my mentor. We were driving the same road as today and came across the Vomba female on a hoisted impala lamb kill. That was my first leopard at Londolozi, and I think of her and that sighting every time I go past that same Saffron Tree (which Elephants have now pushed over sadly).
Anyway, all I’m saying is I love an excuse to troll the archives, and this series of posts provides just that, so let’s journey back to November 2015…
The second Tsalala Tailless lioness (her mother was the first) on the banks of the Manyelethi Riverbed. This was at a time when the Tsalala Pride still had numbers, although the three young males were never likely to stay with the pride for long. The Tsalala name now rests with only two lions; a female and her daughter. Can they reconstitute a functional pride?
As far as I can remember, the pride had just come off a kill of some sort. I forget what, but given the area it was more than likely a nyala or kudu. Poking her head up at the back of the picture is the current Tsalala lioness, then aged just over two years.
November is a time of dramatic skies, as this whitebacked vulture was well aware while it was precariously clinging to its perch. Vultures often find themselves tree-bound in summer, when wet or cloudy conditions don’t allow for the thermals to form that they make use of to achieve the great heights they soar at.
And sometimes one is presented with colours that don’t look real. The rich blue behind this impala on the airstrip was a dramatic build-up of cloud through the afternoon, which unleashed in a violent downpour only minutes after this photo was taken.
In keeping with the thunderstorm theme, this one happened to be at a distance but was incredible for the sheer number of strikes it gave off. The problem was I didn’t have my regular camera bag with me, and had to make do with a fish-eye lens to try and capture something, hence the warped horizon.
The Tamboti female, formerly a mainstay of Londolozi’s leopard viewing, now gone forever. This sighting took place along the Maxabene riverbed, when we bumped into her as she was heading back to an impala kill.
Many of you will remember Tom Imrie, truly one of Londolozi’s legendary guides. Tom’s incredible wealth of knowledge reached far beyond the bounds of just wildlife, and a game drive with him was an immersive education into a wide array of topics, from ancient Phoenician navigation to the latest golfing scores in the Masters.
This was the sighting the Tamboti female led us to; an impala hoisted in the boughs of a Jackalberry overhanging the Maxabene River. Trees like this offer the quintessential leopard viewing one sees in wildlife publications and documentaries, although such an unobstructed view is, in fact, rare.
Dawn light soaks a lone impala ram slaking his thirst in a shallow pan. November generally features a lot of water across the reserve, but most years the river itself has yet to rise to its mid-Summer level, and the bigger waterholes are still low, so space is still limited for the hippos, as evidenced by the bull in the background still being confined to such a shallow waterbody.
Yet another hippo in yet another pan. Once the big waterholes fill and the river rises, these non-dominant bulls will often venture back to the larger pools in the river where they can fully submerge in comfort during the day.
November 2015 was a significant milestone for me, as it was the first time I saw a leopard carry her cub. The Tamboti female moved dens on about five different occasions over a four-week period, and I seem to remember a number of different rangers witnessing their first carry during this time.
The Mashaba female plays with a still-dependent Ximungwe female. Photos like this that have now come full circle (the Ximungwe female has grown and already raised a cub to independence) are the ones I enjoy revisiting the most.
Now that’s a scary thought!