Here at Londolozi, the guides and trackers spend six weeks at a time working at the lodge. After our six-week ‘cycle’ we get the opportunity to head home or to wherever we wish for a two-week break. The past six weeks at Londolozi have been one of my favourites yet. Not just because of the fact that Londolozi and the country are slowly starting to normalize, but because, expert tracker Freddy, our guests and myself have had some of the most amazing experiences and memories out in the bush. As I sit writing this blog just before I head home for my two-week leave, I look back on ten of the many memories I have managed to capture over the past six weeks. A few of them don’t quite capture the entire experience but I’ll try my best to explain them:
One of the Northern Avoca male lions strides across a clearing. Right into the heart of the Birmingham Males’ territory, we followed this Avoca Male Lion who was hot on the scent of two Ntsevu Lionesses, one being in oestrus she allowed this brave lion to spend the following two days mating with her. This has been the furthest we have seen this male venture into his rival’s territories. Who knows what’s in store for us over the next few weeks? Are these younger males starting to move in? This sighting was a very special one. It was incredibly interesting watching this lion bravely but very carefully make his way towards the two Lionesses. It was clear that he is still very aware that the still capable Birmingham Coalition may just be around the corner.
The Nkoveni Female Leopards rests on a termite mound as her two cubs feed on a kill in the tree behind her. I captured this image as a Hyena rustled in the long grass just next to our vehicle. Every now and then she would lift her head to make sure her two cubs were still up in the tree out of harm’s way. This Leopardess so far has been extremely successful in looking after her two healthy cubs. We have been treated to some amazing sights with the three of them.
A gorgeous female who is found to the east of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
A large elephant bull joins us at a waterhole to quench his thirst. We had stopped for a cup of coffee and a rusk when in the distance tracker Freddy spotted this bull elephant approaching. We quickly packed up what we had taken out, jumped in the car with our coffees and risks, sat and watched this peaceful giant drink beside us.
The Plaque Rock Female Leopard strides over some of the most beautiful Granite boulders on Londolozi. The special part about this sighting for me was that this Leopardess was named after these exact boulders. The area or rather the rocks which the Plaque Rock Female is walking over is called Plaque Rock which is a favourite location for many of Londolozi’s staff’. The setting in this particular spot is truly beautiful. The running Sand River in the background and beautiful afternoon light treated us to some magnificent scenes.
A pretty young playful female found along the river to the east of camp
Tracker Freddy Ngobeni sits as a breeding herd of elephants joins us at the Sand River for a mid-day drink. On this particular day, we sat at the river for well over an hour. In this time we easily saw well over 70 different elephants. We watched as many different ages and sizes came down to the water’s edge to drink and bathe during the heat of the day.
On this particular afternoon, we found a pack of twelve wild dogs settled up under a Marula tree resting out the last bits of the heat of the day. Patiently awaiting them to get up and become active. Around 40 minutes later we watched the whole pack get up and greet each other and begin their hunt. The greeting process and social structure of the wild dogs is something that can and always will keep us entertained. We followed the pack for some time watching them hunt then drink at a waterhole and interact with a herd of wildebeest which needed no better ending for the day.
A young male lion, the Nkuhuma Male, feeds on an adult wildebeest that the Mhangeni Pride of lions had killed that night. We received information early in the morning from one of the members of the anti-poaching team that there had been a lot of Lion activity over the night in the grasslands of Londolozi.
One of Ndzanzeni Females Cubs walks straight towards our vehicle. We managed to find the Ndzanzeni Female Leopard with a kill that she had just made. Shortly after feeding on a small bit of the carcass, she hid it under a well-protected bush, covered it with some long grass, then led us straight towards where she was keeping her awaiting cubs. The three of them walked back to the kill, cubs riddled with excitement. This sighting was extraordinary.
This female is a success story all in herself, being born as a single cub to the Riverbank 3:3 female in early 2012.
Probably the most exciting memory of the past six weeks was driving around the corner into this scene. The Ntsevu Pride of lions had just killed this adult buffalo bull. We watched the bulk of the pride (around 12 lions) including the two Birmingham males feed on this buffalo. The aggression, sounds, and entire experience were something to behold. The pride spent two whole days feeding on this prized kill, to get there for the beginning parts of it was really special.
Even though the Wild Dogs with the pups have moved on and we haven’t seen them for a good number of weeks, the Wild Dog sightings, while they were denning on Londolozi, was some of the best game viewing I have ever experienced and felt that I needed to add it in here as a reminder of how special it was. Completely new experiences for me highlighted what unbelievable animals these are. Right towards the end of the denning period here on Londolozi we as guides and trackers got to show our guests some of the best game viewing opportunities one could imagine. The extremely intimate sightings with these Wild Dog pups will never be forgotten.
I hope you enjoyed some of the special sightings that we had with our guests. Experiences like these make coming back to Londolozi just that much more special. I’m really looking forward to the next six weeks and to see what is in store…