The rains continued to fall on Londolozi over the beginning of the week, adding to the already extensive rainfall this season. The waterholes remain full, the Sand River flowing in full force and most roads constantly streaming with underground water breeching the surface through seeplines. The lush vegetation makes the scenery spectacular, however increases the effort required in order to find animals and in particular the secretive leopards.
Still unable to venture north of the river we are in constant wonder as to what has played out over the last while. Hopefully it is not too far in the future until we can attempt to piece together the happenings since Cyclone Eloise. Although we might have to send a team out ahead to clear the roads as it is very likely to be completely overgrown. This has forced us mostly into the south eastern parts of the reserve in our search efforts most drives. The south western parts are dominated by dark black, clay type soils that water-log easily and after the amount of rain it’s probably not advised to go off-road there as the vehicle probably wouldn’t make it too far before needing to call for help and a tow-rope.
Over the last week, the Nstevu pride have been a constant, providing amazing viewing alongside the Birmingham coalition. We have been spoilt with a few sightings of the female cheetah and her two subadult offspring. It is so special to see that they are doing well and that she has managed to raise them both to this age. Elephants are abundant and absolutely loving the excessive vegetation decorating the landscape. Most general game have been seen in enormous herds, impala by the hundreds it seems with all the new additions born over the last few months, wildebeest and zebra have joined forces as they have a selection of more palatable grasses to feed on and of course the strength in numbers. Giraffe who are plentiful over most crests, are loving the new shoots coming through on all the trees and especially the young acacia branches as the thorns have not yet lignified and so they are able to feed very easily. The male giraffe have been in hot pursuit of a few of the females that have been coming in to heat.
Here are a few of my photos, I hope you enjoy.
A large Elephant bull reaches his trunk up to grip a branch of a Marula tree, and with what seemed like such a gently tug the branch came crashing down. it seems counterintuitive to be destroying the Marula trees when there is so much other vegetation around at the moment, but maybe at this time of the year the Marula tree bark and branches are a lot tastier than the rest.
Two zebra had been standing in reverse-parallel in the open with a dramatic cloudy background as the sun broke through the clouds behind me lighting them up with a soft golden light.
The Plaque Rock female, now firmly established as a young independent female still within her mothers former territory. She is proving to be a very successful leopard and with the hopes of potentially raising her first litter of cubs soon. She was seen mating with the Maxims male at the beginning of February.
A young playful elephant approaches our vehicle flush with confidence, raising its trunk up and almost smiling, shortly after this shot it realised it had bitten off a bit more than it could chew and went scrambling off to its mother in panic.
Glancing off in the distance as something catches her attention. The morning had been fairly cool with a bit of light drizzle, but as soon as the sun broke through the clouds, it began to warm up pretty quickly. Soon after this photo she got up and moved to the shade of a nearby thicket.
These two males were sizing each other up, are they even competitors. In order to assert their dominance over one another male giraffe engage in a form of combat known as necking. Standing aside each other, legs spread to form a more stable base, they take in turns swinging their necks around in the attempt to strike the opponent with the top to their head. Using their ossicone (horn-like protrusion) as the impact point they aim for the underbelly, chest or legs. The winner is decided when one either gives up and retreats, or is knocked off its feet. Proving that the most dominant possesses the stronger genes and is able to then mate with a female in heat.
the giraffe on the left had a missed attempt, the giraffe on the right managed to avoid and immediately reloaded and swung its head around to land another good blow to the underbelly of the one on the left.
Making a long trek from one water hole to the neck this young serrated hinge terrapin is incredibly vulnerable to predation. However it swiftly races from patched of vegetation through the open ground to the next bit of safety. I had got out of my vehicle to have a look at some lion tracks and saw this unusually relaxed terrapin warming up in the early morning rays of sunshine. I lay down on the floor and managed to get it with its head extended out, instead of tucked away by its protective hinged plastron, manoeuvrable lower part of the shell that it can fold up over its head and neck that are tucked inside when there is danger nearby.
As the morning started to warm up on one of the first clearer days after the rain, a female cheetah and her two subadult offspring were found. Still in a very playful mood they chased each other around the open grassy areas, helping develop and hone their stalking skill and speed and agility for later on in life when they are no -longer supported by their very patient mother.
The Ximungwe young male props himself up looking off in the distance. Being seen fairly often close to camp it is just a matter of time before he will probably disperse a bit further afield. I say this as the Maxims male is now advancing his territorial boundaries to be nearer to the sand river to the east of camp, and will no tolerate the young male in his territory.
The contrasting light on such a brightly coloured Woodland kingfisher with a dark shaded background made this bird pop out of the scene.
After being with the Ntsevu pride for almost an hour in the hopes of seeing them at least move to the shade, a herd of wildebeest was approaching from just over the ridge. Part of the pride sat up and were watching them intently.
After seeing the approaching wildebeest this female took the lead and began the stalk.
All in position the pride was set to go, but something spooked the wildebeest and set them off running. this lioness broke rank and began the chase, unfortunately the wildebeest were too far ahead of her and she was unable to catch up to them before burning out all her energy.
A lovely lush view of the rolling hills has a large male giraffe standing in from of one of the large granite outcrops we can see when driving around the eastern parts of the reserve.