When it comes to planning holidays far from home, I am the kind of person who firmly believes that the world is large enough that you shouldn’t go back to the same place you already went to. And yet, when planning my 50th birthday trip (that actually took place when I turned 52, but you know what happened in the meantime), there was not a split-second hesitation that I would take my family back to Londolozi for the 3rd time. The reasons are multiple and let me try and list but a few.
The Connection with the Wilderness
We live in Paris, a large city, but I have always felt very connected with nature. My first name means “from the woods” in French, this must be the reason. I am always fascinated by the beauty, the resilience, and the variety of wildlife, from the largest mammals to the smallest plants, without forgetting insects and birds.
They form an equilibrium, they all interact, and they live and die in a constant cycle that places like Londolozi contribute to safeguard and allow us to witness. What is most important for me is that the Londolozi team plays the role of intermediary between us and nature. They give us access to great sightings but without taking them for granted. They keep the subtle balance between habituating animals without influencing them. They preserve the art of tracking, all this allows us to connect with the wilderness in a sustainable way that wouldn’t be possible without them.
The Good Memories
Having lived in South Africa for 15 months in 1995, I had been able to go on a few safaris and grew a fondness for the country, the bush and the animals, among which leopards always held a special place. This dates back to my first very short encounter with a female leopard in the Sabi Sand area. One night, this strong and peaceful animal walked alongside the Land Rover, so close that I could almost touch her, it was a thrilling moment.
A single cub of the Ximungwe Female's second litter. Initially rather skittish but is very relaxed now. Birth mark in his left eye.
And then I bought the book “The Leopards of Londolozi” and promised myself that I would come here one day.
There is this magical thing with people at Londolozi. The encounters we make and the relationships we manage to create in a very short period of time are simply amazing. Before coming this year, we were remembering with great fondness our time with our rangers Callum and Alex and our trackers Freddy and Lucky. We were saying to ourselves that it would be difficult to match them. And then came Kyle, Prof, Amber and Will who not only were incredibly nice and friendly but with their time, special attention and dedication managed to make our stay unforgettable once more.
Londolozi is obviously a place where one can learn and improve one’s wildlife photographic skills to a completely different level. All the conditions are met to come back home with the most amazing photographs: the landscapes, the access and proximity to animals without impacting their behaviour, the huge variety of subjects and the great advice from rangers. This year again, resulted in very rewarding pictures:
Initially seen as a young male in 2016, this leopard only properly established territory on Londolozi in mid-2019
The next two pictures have a special history. It was a miserable afternoon, the drizzle turned into the rain with heavy wind and no matter how quick we were to jump into the ponchos provided by Kyle and Prof, the water kept dripping inside and we were soon soaked to the bone. Kyle, probably thanks to some African wizardry, carried on driving pretty much unperturbed. I eventually let my wife and son go back to camp but being the game-drive zealot that I am, I decided to continue until dinner time, in the hope that the rain would stop.
It eventually did when night fell and then I said to Kyle and Prof, half-jokingly:
Now you have to find me a chameleon!
It wasn’t 10 minutes before the spotlight of Prof caught had locked onto one, amazing! And then I thought I’d give them another challenge, even more tricky this time:
Why don’t we try and find a bush baby?
Believe it or not, the bush baby was served less than 10 minutes later, and was well behaved enough to let itself be photographed, crazy!
Probably the most important reason why Londolozi keeps acting like a magnet to me is its ability to create the most incredible moments. This year there were many and particularly on our last day (my birthday) with an unforgettable and truly emotional evening. But the most unique one was this 1-hour that will probably remain in my memory as one of the most intense ones I ever experienced.
We were the first witnesses of the latest litter of the Nhlanguleni female leopard. These cubs were hardly older than a month and they moved away from their den on their feet (i.e. not carried by their mother) to discover the world. They were puzzled by water, playing in the long grass, climbing trees and hopping around under the reassuring supervision of their mother, who eventually led them to their next den. Those two fur balls were so curious about us, gazing in our direction but in a relaxed way, because their mother was completely relaxed – this was unbelievable. The only challenge was to select the best pictures afterwards… here are a few:
Initially skittish she spent a lot of time in the Sand River, now relaxed she makes up the majority of leopard viewing west of camp.
So thank you Londolozi for all this and see you next time!