Often venturing into the northern reaches of Londolozi, we embark on a mission to explore some of the more scenic parts of the reserve. The “North” as we call it is beautifully decorated with undulating hills that rise up from densely vegetated dry river beds.
The already stunning scenery is then further embellished by an assortment of rocky outcrops, referred to as ‘koppies’ home to the mountaineering klipspringer. Running through the heart of the North winds the Manyelthi River with its expansive sandy riverbed and enormous stands of formidable trees.
Just merely driving through the north from Ximpalapala crest towards Ximpalapala koppie, along the Manyelethi past Marthly pools or reaching as far north as the renowned “leadwood forest”, many are awestruck and often pass the comment that they didn’t need to see anything that particular game drive and would still be satisfied with their excursion into the wilderness.
However, the north is an exciting part of the reserve to drive at the best of times, there is something about going out there not quite knowing what to expect. With some of the largest blocks in the Sabi Sands without a road occurring there, sometimes finding animals can be a challenge as the tracks cross over the road into the large block and do not come out the other side.
This all changed a little while ago when Ranger Shadrack Mkhabela and Tracker Equaliser Ndlovu stumbled across something exhilarating.
The Xinzele Female’s den.
A small female often found in NW Marthly. Similar spot pattern to her mother the Ingrid Dam Female.
Barely even knowing that the Xinzele Female was pregnant, we had not yet started focusing on trying to find her. However, this surprise was welcomed with arms wide open. From what Shadrack and Equaliser could see at the time, there were at least two cubs, possibly about two to three weeks old; and she was keeping them in a cluster of boulders where she had initially kept her last litter.
Ecstatic with this news, we had to have a look for ourselves and were greeted with the below scene.
A somewhat brief sighting of her at the den, but a sighting nonetheless.
Having chosen such a great den, we couldn’t have been happier. There are so many nooks and crannies, logs and clusters of boulders, as well as thick grass to hide in should the cubs need to avoid being seen. More than that, the viewing potential for us around the den was fantastic while still being a safe and secure den for the cubs. Over the few weeks after finding the den here were some of the highlights we managed to capture.
Our only issue is the proximity of the den to the northern boundary of Londolozi, as the Xinzele Female has been spending a fair amount of time to the north of Londolozi and unless you find her at the den, there is a high chance that you will follow her tracks across the boundary, which can be rather frustrating.
Although the den has provided some amazing viewing for those lucky enough to follow her back to the den or find her there during a game drive, such as the beginning of this Virtual Safari, she has already begun moving the cubs to new dens and possibly even taking them to a carcass to begin feeding on meat, some of which have been north of the boundary.
It is fantastic news that there is another female leopard on Londolozi currently raising cubs, and with her being found in the north it adds even more reason to go and explore some of the most scenic areas of Londolozi.
We often drive back into the area around the den hoping that she would have returned with the little cubs and hope to one day find them playing about on the boulders again. After finishing off a carcass, the mother is most likely to leave the cubs in a temporary den while she patrols her territory in order to demarcate the boundaries, and search for her next meal. During this time the cubs may potentially get left at the old den and we long for that day.