The rain that Londolozi had in the month of February was nothing short of unprecedented. Due to various factors, Londolozi and its surroundings have been subject to a low-pressure system that has resulted in more than 300mm of rain falling over a period of two weeks. In relative terms, that is roughly two-thirds of our usual annual average rainfall – in two weeks!
I’m going to leave the task of explaining the reason that we have experienced so much rain and its effects for another day, or potentially for someone else to spell out. I’m rather going to focus on the short-term consequences that we had to grapple with whilst out on a game drive.
During this period of rain, there are two things I realised that I had taken for granted whilst guiding at Londolozi.
- Being able to freely off-road on the reserve
- Exploring ~15 000 hectares (37 000 acres) of one of the most pristine wildlife areas in the world.
Due to the Sand River being in full flood, none of the three crossing points were crossable, this ruled out ~2000 hectares (5000 acres) in the Northern parts of Londolozi. Another ~8000 hectares or so was relatively inaccessible due to the roads being waterlogged and highly likely to get stuck in the road or do some immense damage to the road network which we would have to go and fix at a later stage. If you do the maths, that means that roughly only one-third of the reserve was accessible for game drives.
*Disclaimer: The numbers given above are rough estimates and potentially quite conservative, but in the interest of everyone’s safety and enjoyment whilst on a game drive, we were fairly strict in adhering to our offroading protocols, and for good reason (in other words, for fear of receiving the infamous pink pouch).
Right, so here’s the scenario. With incessant rain falling from the sky, and difficult to predict when it will clear, or when the gaps would be, guests willing to brave the weather and head out on a game drive. The goal is to find a leopard. Tracking in these conditions is next to impossible, tracks would have all been washed away and animals’ behaviour in the rain changes. However, against all odds, my friend and tracker, Trevor, spots a leopard in a tree not long into the drive. Success!
Everyone is elated, and I am relieved. The leopard gazes at us, yawns and then descends down the tree. “Can we follow it?” a guest asks. I’d like to believe that I am very much a ‘yes man’, but in this case, “Yes” just wasn’t going to be possible. The risk of getting stuck whilst trying to follow the leopard off-road was just too high. After explaining the scene most likely to play out if we attempted to follow the leopard, the guests understood and we headed back to camp, sopping wet, but “satisfied”.
I include satisfied in inverted commas because;
I know how that sighting could have unfolded, that female leopard had cubs and she was most likely on her way to nurse them, but we couldn’t follow due to the rain.
Over the two weeks, by having a significant part of the reserve inaccessible and by not being able to offroad, I was reminded just how lucky we are to live and work at Londolozi. I was reminded why I came to work here. Apart from the amazing people I work with and the fulfilment I get from showing off a special part of my country, we have complete free reign to, within reason, unreservedly explore one of the most immaculate representations of ‘the wild’
We were all extremely grateful for the rain that we were blessed with, the Sand River still flows strongly, the ground is saturated, the water table is dramatically elevated, and the bush is lush, green and teaming with life. But all is returning to normal again, the rains have settled and rangers are breathing sighs of relief, not only are we able to off-road like usual again, but the pink pouch won’t be up for grabs as much as it has been during this rainy, wet period.
My Africa which I love – either feast or famine. How we love the rain.
Rain and soggy conditions certainly make the safari experience a challenging and different one from the usual……however, it is all part of the fun and adds to the repertoire of travel experiences! I will say that as much as I likely prefer the winter for safari, being able to photograph cats in the green lush scenery is a thrill!
Weather is a determining factor in many of our human activities. Thank you for the pictures Robert, glad you didn’t get stuck!
You have to be quite brave to game drive it during the rain. It’s an experience all on its own. Particularly when the termites are flying after lol.
Bless you for soldiering through. It’s incredible to see how much of Londolozi is impacted with these deluges.
And, as a side note, so wonderful to see our good buddy Equalizer.
Londolozi got an exceptionally lot of rain and it is to be understood that nobody can ride where the Land Rover will get stuck. Nevertheless Londolozi stays the perfect place to be in the bush with these amazing animals and the scenery to die for. You Rangers are so privileged to work and live on Londolozi. Beautiful foto’s in your story, thank you.
Have you ever gotten the “pink pouch” ?
OMGosh the last pic of the lion cubs! Seems we are all getting much more rain than usual (So. California here). Side question I’ve always wondered…none of your vehicles are covered…which I understand so that your view is unobstructed. But when we went on safari in Kenya we had a van type vehicle w/ a roof that opened up allowing us to stand up to view. We also saw other vehicles similar to Londolozi’s but with covers…so why do none of your vehicles have covers?
I bet Sean was encouraging you all to off-road so he could pass the pink pouch on!
It’s fantastic that you had so much rain on the one hand; the table water has been filled up, there is so much food for the animals. On the other hand, of course, you have been really restricted to a smallish area to drive around in.
But still everyone in the car is smiling. So all is well?
Wow – and I can relate. Here in Northern California we’re about to build an ark to survive our incredible rains this season – after 4 years of drought! Stay unstuck!!
A great blog, Robbie. I must admit that I have taken off-roading anywhere and everywhere on Londoz quite for granted. Not so, anymore!! Thanks for the reminder that Mother Nature rules.
Have never experienced rain in our 5 previous winter visits. Different experience this time of year, although we are unable to enjoy the lush greenery!
Robbie and Trevor both equally amazing. I recall a year or so ago when Tracy and I had the chance to trek out for a building cloudy evening drive not knowing what would unfold. It’s true that the poncho’s aren’t exactly fully protective. We had Trev on the front for what seems like an eternity before we ourselves full of pride asked to turn back to camp. We have been to Londolozi more than a few times over the years and that rainy night was one of our best memories. As soon as we got back to camp we all huddled next to the warm fireplace and relaxed as if it was just part of the plan. We keep coming back, and in just over 5 weeks now until we return. Hope to see you all there!
Just make sure someone else has the pouch.