As a ranger, we can often put ourselves under unjust pressure when a guest arrives at Londolozi having been on safari numerous times before or having been somewhere else prior to us and had amazing sightings. Not that it should really matter but we strive to make our guest’s experience the best it could ever be and ensure it is a truly memorable one. I guess sometimes we need to sit back enjoy the guest’s company and let Londolozi do her magic as we never really know what to expect.
Working very closely with our trackers, we try and handcraft every experience so that it is suited perfectly to each set of guests. Focusing on the age-old traditions and skills of the trackers to seek out the amazing animals of Londolozi. Drawing attention to exactly what it is that they are looking for explaining the process step by step to involve the guests in the search. It is like an amazing riddle for us to work out where they have gone and the guests have the best seat in the house and get to enjoy the ride. Sometimes we are successful, whereas other times the animal’s elusive nature makes it challenging, although, I am sure we are so close that they avoid being found. At the end of the day, we have to remember that all we can do is try our best and the animals will go about their business as they please.
Recently having driven a family that had been on multiple safaris over the past few years, seen incredible things, and were avid followers of the blog, keeping up to date on all the amazing sightings that have been happening at Londolozi; challenge accepted.
On our first morning drive we set off in search of leopard, Londolozi is known for leopard and we felt that there would be no better way to start their stay here, little did we know what kind of morning lay ahead of us. About 15 minutes into the drive, tracker Trevor threw his hand up telling me to stop immediately, I obliged. The trackers get so invested in the search for animals that there are a number of things that trigger this passion, whether they be kudu or monkey alarm calls, the cackling and laughing calls of hyenas on a cool morning, or a drag mark across the road.
Trevor had a quick look around to be sure nothing was close by, then turned back and said there is a fresh leopard drag mark. I wasted no time and got out to have a look myself. This means a leopard had made a kill, dragged it across the road in the hopes of getting the kill closer to a tree to hoist it into. It was fresh and we were in business. Briefly explaining what has unfolded to the guests before Trevor and I set off on the trail of the drag mark, a distinct path of folded over grass, scrapings in the loose surface soil, broken twigs, and shifted leaves with clear leopard tracks in amongst the other evidence. We couldn’t have been walking for more than 10 minutes when looking up we saw a dead duiker draped over a branch of a marula tree, and not too far from the duiker lay a leopard.
We did not want to spend too long near the leopard while on foot as this increases the chances of her seeing us and potentially descending the tree. Our best bet was to hastily head back to the vehicle and drive in to get a better view for the guests. There she was, the Ximungwe female perched up in the fork of the marula tree and a decent amount of her carcass left. This would mean she could be around for at least a day or two here. Little did we know what awaited us.
The Ximungwe female is currently raising a cub, and with her in possession of a decent-sized carcass, we knew that there was a pretty high chance that at some point she would go and call the cub to come and feed on the carcass with her. Before we knew it she looked down towards a nearby thicket and began to give off a gentle chuffing sound, a contact call. The cub was somewhere close by and she was calling it out. I couldn’t believe our luck. She called from the tree for five minutes or so, with no signs or response from the cub, it may have been too nervous to venture out hiding with the vehicle being around and its mother all the way up in the tree. Eventually, with no response, she descended the marula tree and walked towards the thicket that she had been looking at.
It amazes me how nimble and athletic leopards are, when they descend a tree they do not lower themselves down, it is almost as though they run down the tree then jump at the last minute, and hit the ground with a solid thump. Called her cub out and then lay down in front of the vehicle.
The Ximungwe female comes from the Sunsetbend lineage which has been viewed on Londolozi for four generations with this cub being the fifth. Only being her second litter of cubs; having successfully raised the Ximungwe Young Male who dispersed further north towards the end of last year, we have high hopes that she can also raise this cub to independence.
What an exhilarating morning from the initial moment of seeing the drag mark to finding the leopard in the tree and then being there to witness the love and affection between the mother and youngster was amazing. I look forward to being able to witness the growth and development of this young cub over the next few months as it learns the ropes from its mother.