Every step I take here at Londolozi leads me to a new adventure and a lot of these seem to start with the Londolozi airstrip. I certainly can’t help but feel the same excitement for each guest as they land and take their first step off the plane, often the starting point of turning their dream safari into a reality.
Not being far from the camp, the two roads on either side of the airstrip are often the first routes taken as you head out on a game drive. Although at first, you might want to whiz straight past the airstrip and head to the thickets along the Maxabene River or towards the expansive open grasslands, I always enjoyed moments during my training when we would take the time to park and watch the sunrise and let the anticipation of what was in store for the rest of the day build up.
As trainee rangers, we would then often find and sit with a number of different plains game species such as wildebeest, zebra or impala and watch them grazing along the grassy verges around the airstrip. Returning towards camp in the evenings, we would see similar herds huddling together and taking advantage of the wide-open spaces to spot any predators advancing into the area.
One evening during training we did things a little differently and parked up at the airstrip in search of Nightjars and Owls to add to our big birding week. On this particular evening, this was no safe zone for any prey species as we were surprised by the Ntsevu pride lying right in the middle of the airstrip. Noting that this was a few months back, the pride was still regularly seen in full force together as the 6 lionesses and their 14 sub-adults.
As we watched the lions lying with their heads up looking for any prey that had long since moved off into the thickets for more protection now, one couldn’t help but appreciate the beauty of the moonless sky and vibrancy of stars above. This was topped off with a thunderstorm brewing and illuminating the horizon and the thought of fresh rains approaching, adding to the tingling goosebumps I was already feeling.
Clearly already feeling the sensory overload, I was overwhelmed by what happened next. A large breeding herd of elephants stormed out of thickets hurtling straight toward the Ntsevu pride. This sent the pride scattering in different directions with their tales very evidently between their legs – certainly not living up to their “King of the Jungle” reputation. It is not uncommon for elephants to react defensively around large predators though, and this was not the first time the Ntsevu Lionesses have been seen fleeing from outraged elephants (although they were still young cubs in the video below)… and unlikely not the last either.
The Mhangeni Pride and Majingilane coalition, with their cubs who have now grown to be known as the 6 Ntsevu Lionesses, back in 2014 when they were chased off an impala kill by a very disgruntled herd of elephants.
I sat in awe of what was unfolding in front of me and couldn’t help but think that I was part of some scene from Out of Africa – but a couple of pinches later and a loud grunt from a hippo that then gave me the biggest fright and simultaneously bought out some tears of overwhelm and gratitude, I knew it was no movie scene. Since that evening it has been a scene I recount and think of often, particularly as I stand with goosebumps waving in guests as they come into land on the airstrip and begin their Londolozi safari adventure.