Halfway into a three-week stay with my guests, we wanted to do something slightly different for our morning game drive. Most of our great sightings so far were in the heart of the reserve, so we felt that it could be interesting to dedicate an entire game drive to cover the perimeter of Londolozi and see what we could find on the outskirts of the reserve.
We set off early from camp heading towards the western boundary, driving along the southern bank of the Sand River with the goal of circumnavigating the reserve in a clockwise direction. Our first contact with the boundary was at a river crossing through the Sand River known as Taylor’s crossing, with a spectacular view looking east towards the awakening dawn.
This takes us into the northern part of Londolozi moving further from the river, we found ourselves on some elevated ground and perfectly positioned to pause for a moment, switch the vehicle off and enjoy a peaceful sunrise over the landscape, listening to the dawn chorus as everything awakes from the cool evening prior.
Our journey then took us east along the northern boundary where we soon came across a small herd of elephants ambling through an open area with the lovely morning light shining through behind them. We spent a little longer with the elephants as they moved off feeding before we continued on, enjoying our time in some of the lesser-explored areas of Londolozi.
The only surviving cub of the Nanga female, who essentially inherited her mother's territory in central Marthly.
After crossing back through the Sand River, which spans the width of Londolozi, we heard that the Makomsava female was found on the road where we had just been no more than 30 minutes ago – so close yet so far. Just as we were discussing being in the right place at the right time, we happened to come across what was probably my favourite sighting of the morning.
A large elephant bull reaching up high to feed on some leaves and branches from a massive fig tree, angling his body upwards and extending his trunk to its limit to pick the juicy figs that hung above him. We watched him for a few minutes until he moved off. From here we continued with our journey south down the eastern boundary.
The drive along the southern boundary was what I was looking forward to most as it is a road that is not often driven which makes it feel very remote to even the most senior rangers. You never really know what you could come across down there. The southernmost road weaves its way through a mixture of thickets and open areas, and some rocky sections too. We were fortunate enough to come across a large herd of about 200 buffalo as well as an enormous white rhino bull.
We knew that doing a boundary drive could turn out to be a slightly longer morning than usual, so we had planned ahead and ordered a breakfast basket to be brought out to us. With some beautiful views in the southern reaches, we thought it would be a great spot to stop and have our breakfast, but a steady wind started to come through and had us opting instead to stop a little further down near a small waterhole where there was more cover.
After breakfast, on our last leg of the drive along the Western boundary, a single lioness had been found near to where we were, so we decided to join Jess Shillaw in the sighting. It can often be a challenge identifying lionesses unless they have any visible features such as scars or markings. This lioness was quite possibly one of the Mangheni lionesses. We followed her for a short while and watched her stalk a couple warthogs.
Eventually, we lost sight of her as she ventured into a thicket and it became difficult to follow her. At this stage we were only a few kilometers from camp, so we slowly made our way back, completing what turned out to be a wonderful winter morning drive.