Saturday, December 21, 2013

Londolozi 2013

Londolozi .."the protector of all living things" it isn't just a vacation or a safari it is a way of life. The passion for nature -the hospitality of the people is like no other. I go for the animals but I leave with friends.
This is my photo journal of my third and most recent trip to Londolozi. I have written two articles for the blog focusing on what Londolozi is know for-their leopards. But this time I wanted to share a bit more.
 First afternoon safari...words can't describe how the temp drops a coolness returns to the air the light fades as we track our first I believe of eight leopards this trip. These leopards are known to Londolozi. They are studied and recorded, their geneology documented. This aspect of Londolozi experience is amazing, unique and special and gives guests a glimpse into the world of the illusive leopard. We are looking for the Tamboti female and her cub that have recently been sighted. Trevor and Bennett jump off the vehicle -an excitement permeates the guests....what will they find???? They come back shortly and have good news "we have spotted the Tamboti cub sitting on a termite mound.  We sit with her for a few minutes and we drive off in search of mom who must be nearby.A guest actually spots the leopard sitting on the edge above us as we drive below in a drainage line (Donga). We follow her for a while until the light completely fades. Always nice to start out with a leopard on the first drive!

After an early 5am wake up call a fun necessary part of morning drive... Coffee, hot chocolate with some Amarula- and some freshed baked goods from camp-yum! A chance to strech your legs an hour or two into morning drive. The sun is just beginning to warm the air about 7:30 am. 

Cheetahs a relatively new addition to this area of the Sabi Sands. I had the opportunity to observe this mother cheetah and her teenagers learning to hunt the overzealous young male foiled the hunt on several occasions. We followed them as they set up for the impalas near by jumping up on logs for better vantage points and climbing on top of termite mounds.

A dazzle of Zebras by the greenest fields and water I have ever seen

Pictures can not capture the most memorable drives of this trip. Into the dry river bed to find a female leopard that was spotted with her kill-Tutlawa female. First Trevor and Bennett get out of their vehicle rifle in hand. The guest back in the vehicle whisper wondering what they will find. They return to the vehicle and tell us the leopard is in that area of boulders. The landscape appears to inaccessible even to Trevor..with confidence Bennett assures him and us it can be done. with a few hand gestures and a a few keys words Trevor navigates over this rocky bush covered terrain cries from his jeep scream out...we did it. But guess what.. Marthly male has stolen the kill and slipped further down between some trees. we back down this rock that we felt we had so victoriously conquered and pursued another path. Sure enough we find him knawing on the impala kill blood on his whiskers he looks up at us-the meanest looking leopard i have ever seen. He licks his lips and proceeds with his evening meal. We sit with him until the sun fades.
As we drive out of the riverbed who do we see  siiting perched atop the granite boulder but the female leopard we set out to find we watched her slink down the rock into the sand of the dry river bed returning to her kill.

Tamboti female resting on the dry leaves in the shade of many trees...Tamboti cub amuses himself with moms tail.

Another wonderful sighting took place this afternoon drive. We tracked or should I say Bennett and Trevor tracked a rather shy leopard near his kill in the tall dry grasses. We waited patiently as he grew a bit more at ease with our presence. Trevor knew he would eventually return to the tree for his kill. So he positioned the vehicle to give us the perfect view of him jumping up the tree to have his sunset meal. I sat and prepared my cameras for just the right angle, just the right lighitng for that moment he would appear from the dry grass gaze at the side of the tree for a moment before executing his planned climb to his prize. Cameras ready- the clicking sounded like mini machine guns shooting as he hoisted himself up, wrapping himself around the tree as he planned his next move. Finally he arrives at his kill and he settles in for his evening meal. We watched until the remains of the kill dropped to the ground and we watched him strategically climb down and dissappear into the tall dry grasses.

It's one thing to see one of the big five it's another to see hundreds of cape buffalo all in one place coming down to drink at a small watering of a few that remain this dry time of year just before the rains arrive

Elephants-no photos can capture the enormity or the look in an elephants eyes when he sizes your safari vehicle up and tilts his head flips his ears shuffles the sand with a front leg and gestures forward in his mock charge attempt. It is an amazing feeling to be so close to these beautiful smart large creatures. Sitting below this mammoth sized ellie as he shook the Jackleberry  tree above to release the fruits to the ground for her and her calf- was an experience I will never forget. 

Rhinos are always such a treat they amaze me how prehistoric they look.

No visit would be complete without some time amongst the local visitors to Londolozi camp-the vervet monkeys and the Nyala that wander the property.

Some other various wildlife to spot. A Lilac Breasted Roller. Abundant and frequently seen...difficult to photograph.

A Chameleon spotted by those amazing tracker eyes of Bennet  

A Hippo with floating in some yucky water

 Frequently seen and frequently neglected to photograph-Impala

Some Wildebeests

Hyenas that were staying close by to a hippo kill.


Blacked back Jackyl and vulture hang around and fight over the remains of a large male Kudu

Waterbucks are beautiful.

Another fun tracking adventure to find this pride of nine cubs and four adult female resting in the shade of trees to keep cool of the early morning heat of the sun- 9am. 

Trevor promised we would see the male lions 2 of the four Majangaline males- Golden mane and Dark mane. It was out last afternoon drive, my sixth and final day. There they were doing what lions do 20 hours of the day sleeping in the shade. Sitting patiently for any signs of movement. Patience pays off. As if to pose they both sit showing us their  majestic profile the sound of shutters clicking away. Finally the perfect shot they both gaze in our direction. All photographers on board including Ranger Trevor and Tracker Bennett we quickly show off our best work to each other.

As a parting sighting as we head back to camp an amazing giraffe behavior was observed. Two young males were battling it out-just practicng for the real thing. A choreographed dance a repetition of the swinging and colliding of necks...a moment to set up the swing, a hesitation ,a drop of the neck and a thrust back into his opponent. 

The people are so amazing. They are like a big family and for a short time I have a sneak peak at what it feels like to be part of such an amazing world of people animals and nature. This photo captures a littlerunning joke they play. The ranger that last got stuck in the bush has to wear this pink pouch. That was a fun sighting ;).

One of the last nights on safari we came across a female leopard trying to tempt Marthly male into mating with her. He did not seem to interested. Trevor seemed to think she was doing this to distract him away from her cubs.

And last but not least the camp itself and the people. I fail to capture the beauty of both - focusing so much of my attention on the wildlife sometimes I miss the true beauty of the simple things. Here are a few during my stay and upon my departure. 

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I hope you have enjoyed my return trip to Londolozi and it feels as if you have briefly been where I dream of  being every night.