And just like that it is now November: It’s as if someone waved a magic wand and everything turned green. But seriously, within a week the reserve has taken another beautiful turn in the cycle of seasons and we are well and truly into summer. With the first rains of the season under our belt, the reserve has broken out into abundant greenery. With this, as always, the sightings have been plentiful and special as the animals gear up for summer.
No less than six leopards are featured in this post alone, yet several others, including seldom-seen leopards, have been showing up around the reserve. Perhaps the most notable is that of the Mashaba Female, being found around Camp, an area she frequented as a much younger female. I know Sean featured her last week but I also snapped some shots of her and couldn’t leave them out. The Three Rivers Young Male, Nkuwa Female and Maxims Male (who is noticeably more relaxed in the presence of vehicles) are frequently seen, and the Ntomi Male continues to provide unrivalled entertainment and viewing.
On the lion front, the Ntsevu Breakaways have also been providing phenomenal viewing as they successfully trail the large herd of buffalo wherever they go. The Skorro Male has staked his claim west of Camp and allowed us an opportunity for some backlit, spotlight photography. In addition, in the past few months, we continue to be blessed with a myriad of cheetah and wild dog sightings, including a Wild Dog sighting I will remember for years to come. I’ll leave the rest of the story to the images below.
Let’s not forget some other magical sightings of a myriad of colourful birds, with seasonal migrants continuing to return as well as the general game, elephants, and buffalo in abundance.
Let me know your favourites in the comments section below.
Enjoy This Week In Pictures…
The Nhlanguleni Female in a golden sunset and grass.
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.
I wanted to include this photo from three weeks ago, not only because I love the scenery, and the story it tells, but rather to show some perspective on just how quickly the bush has come alive with green!
A herd of Waterbuck and their dominant male make full use of the new grass shoots in the open crests near camp in the soft afternoon light.
For me, one of the most memorable Wild Dog sightings I’ve had. The Ottawa pack cross the sand River at finfoot as the sun sets. I’ve always dreamt of a photo with the koppie in the background, and the magical colours of sunset make it all that more special.
A different perspective from the same sighting. Wild dogs cross rivers often, due to their vast home rangers, however, that doesn’t mean they are unaware of possible dangers lurking in the water (or make it any less memorable!)
The Ntomi Males stares back into the sunset as the Skorro Male walked past behind our vehicle.
A single cub of the Ximungwe Female's second litter. Initially rather skittish but is very relaxed now. Birth mark in his left eye.
While sitting with the Ntomi Male on an open crest as sunset, impalas started to alarm and with huge excitement, we spotted the Skorro Male walking towards our vehicle! Had he smelt the leopard in the area, we don’t know. However, he did pose with another beautiful African sunset in the background. A majestic male lion staking his claim on Londolozi.
A very timid female chin-spot battis hunkers down in the wind! Much to our surprise, she didn’t fly away, despite us offroading near to the tree she was perched in following a leopard. Another incredible spot from tracker Ray Mabilane
A lone elephant quenches its thirst in the Sand River. On hot afternoons, it is so rewarding spending time along the river as animals are drawn to the lifeblood flowing through the heart of the reserve
The Mashaba female, wearing the signs of old age has surprised us all in shifting much further north than usual, returning to her old territory around camp. Possibly due to her age, this much-loved female continues to show the resilience of leopards defying all the odds!
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best-known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the vehicles.
A large female buffalo gazes towards us, I was particularly impressed by this set of horns on a female buffalo.
The largest of the Ntsevu Males walks with a purpose. These four males have provided some exhilarating entertainment over the past few weeks as they are never far from a herd of buffalo, constantly on their heels. On this particular day, his eyes were locked and the hunt was on!
As the ground becomes saturated with more rainfall, lilies such as this extraordinary African Blood Lily (Scadoxus multiflorous) break the ground. They grow so quickly that they almost appear to have popped up overnight. The blossoms last between one and two weeks and are strongly toxic and were traditionally used in medicines as well as arrow and fish poisons.
A mighty impressive elephant bull enjoying the cooling rewards of fresh mud and water in a wallow in the open grasslands. With a slight dip near the waterhole we were able to get almost eye level with the gentle giant, and soaked up every minute spent with him.
After going through an incredible run of cheetah sightings a few weeks ago, these rare cats have gone quiet once again. We did however have a great sighting of this young male resting on top of a termite mound in the late afternoon. How beautiful are his eyes?
As the late afternoon light shone through the scene this elephant’s eye lit up.
The sun catches an infant Vervet Monkey as it perches in a tree with another slightly older monkey nearby.
A young member of the Othawa Kack emerges from the thickets along the Sand River, and with neither anticipation nor apprehension, eyes the river crossing that follows.
A family on Southern Ground hornbills let out their booming call as the meander fed on a chilly morning.
Two playful young elephant bulls entertained us with their antics as they jostle for hours, establishing a hierarchy and developing vital fighting skills. Despite the playful fighting, there is no doubt of the shared sibling bond that unites elephants.
The Three Rivers Young Male has one last look at the zebra calf he has managed to hoist into a tamboti tree. An amazing feat of strength and balance to pull such a heavy meal into the tree
One of two cubs to survive, the sister lost at five months. Still dependent on his mother, but is growing into an impressive young male.
A large male giraffe stands tall in a clearing
Nyala bulls have a rather strange way of fighting though. It looks more like a slow-motion waltz than it does a fight. They circle each other, with their faces trained on the ground but keep a beady eye on their opponent by surreptitiously using their peripheral vision
Parking down in a dip, one of the Ntsevu females slowly started to wake up and eyed out the water. Any stage to get eye level with these impressive cats is a photographers dream, and the power of these lionesses can’t be understated.
Undoubtedly the best leopard sighting I’ve ever had! The Nweti male spent a good half an hour digging out this warthog from his burrow, and in a flurry, it was all over! Stay tuned for a full blog on this sighting from Ranger Dan Hirschowitz as his images capture the whole encounter.
He is a large, tall, and long male that has an incredible coat and a tuft of hair on his neck
A large elephant bull wanders across the causeway.
Having already stopped for a sunset gin and tonic, the booming roar of the Skorro male nearby brought an abrupt end to that! With darkness descending, we tried our hands and some night, backlight photography.
The Three Rivers Female pauses momentarily on her ascent with a worried glance at some descending vultures in the distance. With night falling she needn’t have worried.
Forced into early independence as her mother was killed by the Southern Avoca Males.
Two large zebra stallions jostle for dominance early one morning as the rest of the herd continue grazing obviously
The Tsalala Lioness. With hardly a scratch on her face, due to the solitary life she has been forced into, this female optimises both resilience and beauty that is apparent in all lionesses. A force, and a truly incredible lioness
Another shot of the Ntomi Male with his distinctive eye marking and glare.
Much to our delight, the Ntomi Male continues to stay in both his mother’s and father’s territories. Despite all contradicting literature, there have been multiple sightings of both the Senegal Bush male and Ntomi male, sharing a kill, in the same tree. Here, perhaps a bit brazen, he snarls at the much larger Senegal Bush male, attempting to take back what is left of the warthog.
With the Senegal Bush Male feeding in the tree above, one of the Ntsevu Males glances longingly upward.