The Sand River below, a Green-backed heron stands in wait for the winter sun to warm up before his day of fishing.
One of the adult Wild dogs returns to the pack, exuberant in clearly having made a kill. True pack animals, when this individual returned, the dogs all yelped with excitement and ran around him in circles until he ran back the way he came at full tilt, leading the rest to the carcass. Unfortunately, however, by the time they reached the dead impala, mere seconds after he had left it, most of it had already been consumed by hyenas.
Quite typical of lion mating, the Sparta lioness gave him a very aggressive post-coital sendoff. He then responded with an earth-shattering roar.
A White-bellied Sunbird feeds on nectar from an aloe flower. This beautiful little bird is a common site in the winter months when the Aloes flower in abundance throughout the Lowveld of South Africa.
The other Tsalala lioness grooms closely enough to us so that we can get a good look at her deadly claws. On this morning, they eventually killed an impala. These lionesses hunt frequently during the day, which as Freddy tells me is skill taught to them by their mother, the famous ‘Tailless Female’, seen occasionally in the north.
A Water monitor lizard tries to bask in a rather strange position, clutching a fallen branch.
Young boys will be boys… The hippos at Taylor’s Dam were minding their own business when a young male elephant became bored feeding with his family and decided to terrorize the youngsters, sending them back into the water! The adults looked on nonchalantly.
The Maxabene Female walks down the road with a spring in her step. With a full belly, she had clearly eaten recently, and was patrolling her territory, scent-marking heavily. There had been another female in the area, the Tamboti Female, and Maxabene seemed to want to leave a clear message that this was her ground.
Flowering at the end of winter, Impala lillies provide a bright splash of colour to the dry and tawny bushveld.
In a sudden burst movement, the South Pride pounce on an older buffalo who had dropped back from the herd.
The rain droplets on her face and the scar next to her eye are further reminders that life in the bush is not always so easy for animals like the Vomba Female.
After another female jealously snatched the baby up to cradle it, its mother grabbed it back to nurse.
Rhino are often used as a symbol of strength, durability, and aggression. In my opinion, however, they are gentle pacifists who are only dangerous when provoked. This cow and four other individuals grazed quietly around us within arms length, pausing occasionally to listen and smell curiously. Their naive trust in us was touching, but it is heartbreaking to think that they might have the same trust in the poachers that seek to harm them.
The Vomba Young Female relaxes in an ebony tree. We had a few sightings of this beautiful female around the Sand River this week. Generally the leopard we view in this area only go into trees if they have a kill, but we had three separate sightings this week like this, where the leopard was merely using the tree as a resting spot.
The younger male even ventured down into the river, but ran back up to the others soon after.
In parrot-like fashion using its agile feet and bill, a Brown headed parrot pries seeds from an Albizia pod.
With the spring rains, the fresh green growth seems to have given the herbivores new vitality. We came across these two zebra stallions play fighting, although at times the intensity was a bit more than ‘play’.
Two young elephant cross the causeway, smelling us as they approach.
Upon hearing the exhalation of a nearby hippo, she looked around to have a look. She eventually made it to the other side without incident.
A dragonfly catches the afternoon light by the Sand River.
A second elephant bull passes by after playing in the mud. They use their tusks sometimes to dig at the sides of the mud wallows, loosening the mud to roll against the banks. With all the focus on rhino poaching in Southern Africa, we tend to forget that elephants are also targets of poachers, for their ivory tusks. Unfortunately over the past year there has been a huge surge in elephant poaching, particularly in East and Central Africa. Although their numbers are more stable than rhinos, we should still be greatly concerned about this recent increase in the black market demand for ivory.
The ‘New’ Tailless Tsalala lioness walks past Taylor’s Dam just after sunset, while the hippos watch. She seems to be coping with her hyena-inflicted injury quite well, as she is keeping up with the pride, although slightly thinner than the others. We hope she will continue on the road to recovery.
One of the four runs towards us in a playful move to get to its sibling.
They then engaged in all-out battle, flapping and kicking one another until the victor chased the apparent loser away from the pond.
On our way to view the Tsalala lions, we had a sighting that proved to be of more entertainment to the guests than the sleeping lions provided… a pair of leopard tortoises mating! The male is usually smaller, and more determined, than the female, which made for an amusing scene of romance.
It turns out the sounds came from an extremely sad situation. A wildebeest had been trying to give birth all morning, a process that usually lasts minutes in wildebeest, but clearly the calf was stuck and both would eventually die. Here, one of the Majingalane Males, the one with the scar on his nose, runs towards the incapacitated wildebeest.
I think this crocodile might become one of the familiar faces of Londolozi… or at least the Week in Pictures! Last summer, it was usually in the Sand River at one of our crossings, in the same spot, mouth open in the rapids, seemingly waiting for a fish to pop in. This summer, he’s back, and gives us up close and personal views of a deadly predator which is normally quite shy and elusive.
Afterwards, they had a drink and a rest at a nearby pan. They were playing at the edge of the water, trying to cool off, but all the while clearly worried about crocodiles. Each time there was a ripple in the water they leapt away quickly!
After the failed attempt at impala, she used this fallen tree for some elevation in the thicket to try to spot other prey.
One of the South Pride Males looks for his three companions after a day of sleeping in the long grass.
More common to see sitting in the roads at night, this Nightjar was a fantastic daytime spot by Robert Hlatswayo, with whom I worked for a few days this week. Completely blending into his perch on a stump, a close look reveals its very large eyes, perfect for viewing its insect prey at night.
Two zebra stallions fight for dominance in a bachelor group.
After mating with the Tamboti Female, Camp Pan was very hungry. He luckily managed to kill an impala and hoist it in a tree, and we were lucky enough to catch him when he climbed up it one morning to feed.
It is interesting to see the tipping points in a pack of Wild Dogs. Once the first member had taken the plunge into the water, closely followed by the second, the remaining member of the pack all ran headlong into the water not wanting to be left behind.
Male Weavers spend hours building their nest in order to impress the potential female mates. More often than not, the female will fly along and strip the nest bare if she is not happy with the quality of the build. Clearly this male was too focused on getting it right the first time to notice our presence close by.
There is an unrelaxed female leopard who spends much of her time on the Marula Crests in Marthly. We were fortunate enough to have a brief sighting of her delicately perched in a Marula tree. Eyeing us out and clearly, still uneasy, about being viewed she soon descended down the trunk of the tree and melted off into the brush.
A Woodlands kingfisher holds a recently caught solifuge, or sun spider, which is an arachnid although not a true spider. The bird then flew and deposited the meal into a hole in the trunk of a nearby Marula tree, implying that there were hungry chicks inside!
This was an interesting sighting. A young elephant bull had discovered an old rhino skull and carried it in his mouth for a while, clearly curious.
A flock of White-faced ducks stands at Tsalala Pan. These birds not only look beautiful but have a melodious, whistling call.
When we found the Sparta lioness with her two cubs, they were in a dense thicket polishing off scraps from a wildebeest kill she had made a few days before. We thought that might be the height of our sighting, but it was our lucky day as soon after they got up and started walking towards water. We immediately noticed the porcupine quill in the lioness’ left shoulder – ouch!
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the week for Freddy and me was seeing two enormous crocodiles fighting. One had come up from the Sand River to Taylor’s Dam overnight, and the resident croc was clearly upset by the intruder. Here one bites the other and ‘croc rolls’.
Londolozi’s newest superstar! This very relaxed little rhino put on a huge show for us one afternoon. Full of energy, he kept playfully running back and forth to the vehicle. It is extremely rare to see a white rhino cow so relaxed with the presence of the vehicle. Usually, a sighting of a calf is only a fleeting glimpse as the mother is so protective and usually herds it away.
The heel of a leopard’s foot has three distinct lobes, diagnostic when tracking cats.
Winter is coming and the bush is getting dry! Through the legs of a giraffe, a zebra grazes on the remainder of the nutritious summer grass which is now fading to yellow.
A Swainson’s francolin catches the early morning rays atop a small termite mound.
Three klipspringers catch the remains of the sun on a kopjie in Marthly, the north of Londolozi. These small and rarely seen antelope are specially adapted for rock living, with slip-resistant hooves and requiring very little water for survival.
Getting even between his toes, the Maxabene Young Male shows how his coat stays so beautiful.
A hyena cub waits at the entrance to the den for its mother’s return. This is the same youngster as we photographed so much about 4 months ago. We thought they had vacated this den site but our colleagues Daniel and Like rediscovered it this week. It has grown quite a bit in the past few months!
These colourful, boisterous birds are one of the highlights of watching the buffalo herds.
Realizing he’d been left behind, the male sprints towards the airstrip, chasing the Sparta lioness after getting her scent.
An elephant calf curiously gives us a smell. The dry winter months bring the breeding herds of elephants to the Sand River.
Unfortunately his tree-climbing capabilities were put into question when he subsequently fell out! Luckily he was not bothered by the fall, and climbed straight back up!
A huge highlight this week was a fourth discovery of the Dudley Riverbank Female and cub. We found them on an impala kill, which kept them in a good viewing area for the next 2 days. This was fantastic not only for the guests and rangers who hadn’t seen her, but gave the youngster some good exposure to the vehicles.
The sunrise from the new Founder’s Deck is worth delaying the morning drive an extra five minutes!
A giraffe towers over a bachelor herd of impala.
The morning sun creates a halo around a hardly-angelic baboon. The youngster was playfully wreaking havoc in a Jackalberry tree amidst the Leadwood forest of Londolozi.
A giraffe drinks from Serengeti Pan while an oxpecker works to clean her ear.
Even though the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male did actually mate with her, he played hard to get. He aggressively growled and hissed while she swished her tail across his face until he finally mated with her. This behaviour, however, is typical of leopard mating interaction.
Post-mating, he leapt quickly away to avoid a swift claw to the face by the female. It is interesting that despite mating with the Camp Pan Male and his son the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male several times during the past few months, she does not appear to have conceived. Sometimes leopards will mate with several males to ‘appease’ and therefore ensure the safety of her cubs from all the surrounding males. However, maybe this time she was in a true estrus and we will be tracking to her densite in a few months…
The best sighting this week for me was watching the first moments of a newborn elephant’s life. At dusk, we happened upon a herd very closely bunched together and edgy. We knew something was happening and watched as they eventually split and this little one appeared. The hustle and bustle of the excited herd was a stark contrast to the calm youngster who slowly tried to gain his feet and follow his mother. The herd was extremely relaxed with our presence and moved towards us, feeding and allowing the little one to lie down next to us. The mother slowly moved off, and then we watched as two younger elephants – presumably siblings – came and gently bent down and picked up the baby to its feet using their trunks and heads. I have heard of such behaviour in elephants but never witnessed it firsthand.
A curious young male elephant gave us a chance to view some of his features up close! After circling our vehicle, smelling us, he stood in front and tilted his foot, picking it up and scuffing it back and forth. This is a behaviour elephants commonly display when contemplating their next move. But you can clearly see his toenails, and the grooved underside of his soft feet. It is always surprising to people to learn that elephants make almost no sound as they walk, due to this soft foot sole.
There is a lot of talk lately about the giant crocs around Londolozi. During the winter months they can often be seen sunbathing on the banks of the river and waterholes, but this year it seems as though there are many more resident monster crocs! It has therefore been put forth to the rangers a challenge to try and ‘measure’ the crocs, obviously done through photographs and not the croc hunter wrestling method. Watch this space to see what we find, and definitely expect to see more croc photos in the weeks to come!
It turns out she was trying to capture the attention of one of the Majingalane Males – the Dark maned one – in order to mate with him.
They greeted their mother warmly, who nursed them before hunting. That night, they left the cubs hidden nearby while they unsuccessfully hunted.
A Giant kingfisher waits for prey at Taylor’s Crossing.
Our ‘kill’ sighing of the week! A Stripe-bellied sand snake tries to subdue a skink by constricting it.
An elephant gives itself a dustbath.
It is always an incredible treat to see these two beautiful animals.
Even the birds are participating in the baby boom, as this protective Blacksmith plover guards her batch of eggs.
A business of dwarf mongooses gaze from their multi-level reconverted termite mound home, catching the last rays of sun on the first sunny day of the week!
All of the new green grass has attracted many grazers like zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and rhino to the southern areas of Londolozi.
An up-close view of the leopard’s ‘spots’ – which are actually called rosettes, and differ from a cheetah’s polka-dot pattern.
A Saddle-billed stork searches for frogs which have recently appeared in throngs in the waterholes around Londolozi.
As he settled down for the heat of the day, we had a gorgeous close-up sighting of him, regally staring into the light.
Leopard mating always provides for exciting viewing!
They sought a bit of privacy behind a marula tree!
When we arrived at the sighting, Camp Pan was sitting on the base of the tree, very full from having eaten most of his zebra foal carcass. However, he then made an acrobatic effort to get back up the tree by jumping from a nearby rock!
A bushbuck displays a former battle wound – a huge tear in his ear, most likely the result of being pierced by another male’s sharp horn.
A lot of time this week was spent with the cub of the Tsalala Tailless Lioness. The little girl is getting big, and extremely curious!
The Tsalalas kept losing their balance while standing on the floating hippo, and did not want to risk being grabbed by the crocodiles if they tried to drag the carcass away. In the end, they left having only fed on a small portion of the meat.
Two millipedes coil in the defense formation – a behaviour used to mimic snakes and therefore deter potential predators. If you’re wondering why one is white and one is brown (they are usually black), you aren’t the only one! Even the other rangers were asking upon seeing this photo. There are many different species of millipedes, and my best guess is that these two are different species.
Warthogs are strong creatures and it took a lot of effort for him to grab this large sow by the throat. The female leopard (Maxabene) even came in to ‘help’ – although the male ended up doing most of the killing!
A hooded vulture slowly approaches the site of where the Mapogo took the buffalo down. Seemingly unfazed, ‘Makhulu’ feeds on the buffalo in the background. Being in such an open area, it wasn’t long before the vultures started descending. The Mapogo, however, were in no rush to give up this big meal.
This was my favorite find of the week! As we rounded one of the final corners on the way back to camp, I had a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. It turned out to be a painted reed frog perched in the fork of a buffalo thorn branch. These frogs are responsible for the high pitch ‘pinging’ sound that one often hears at waterholes on summer evenings.
The beautiful, lantern like, flowers of the sickle bush which can be seen all over Londolozi at the moment.
A male tree agama lizard, with the exception of his blue head, shows excellent camouflage against the bark of a torchwood tree. The female would be similar to the male, but without the blue head.
A breeding herd of elephants feed alongside a fig tree. I love the effect of all the green that surrounds the elephants.
Vomba Female and Cub
Returning to Safety
A Pair of Mating Chameleons
A photograph I have been waiting a while to capture; the Golden Mane Majingilane strolls nonchalantly past the Londolozi sign. I have had bad luck in previous attempts at such a shot, as the light was always on the wrong side, or I was too late to get into position, or any number of factors, but the stars finally aligned on this morning.
A pair of red-billed oxpeckers with hair plucked from an impala lamb. These birds will often gather hair as nesting material from their host animals.
A slightly irate looking yellow-billed hornbill enjoys a dust bath in the sand overlooking the Manyelethi River. Dust-bathing fulfills a vital function for many bird species, helping them to control parasites and excess lipids in their feathers.
A pair of impala enjoy the sunset together on Fluffies Clearing. Their abundance at Londolozi can lead to them being taken for granted, but spending time with a herd can be a fascinating and beautiful experience.
An amazing caterpillar found by one of the Londolozi staff members.
Probably the cutest thing I’ll see for a long time. An African jacana chick scurries across the duckweed and lilies towards the safe wings of its father.
The Mashaba female pauses whilst hunting. Straight after this shot was taken she went into a crouch and began stalking something in the grass. We couldn’t see what it was, but all was revealed as she dived into a thicket and a flock of guineafowl exploded out. She missed, so went hungry for awhile longer.
This sighting provided such perfect photographic opportunities that at one point I felt like we were getting greedy, and I had to put my camera down! f3.5, 1/2000s, ISO 320 @ 200mm
A red-billed oxpecker uses a white rhino as a convenient perch from which to grab a drink. These birds will often use large wallowing herbivores like rhinos, buffalo and hippopotamuses as water access points! f4.5, 1/125s, ISO 1600, @ 200mm
The Cheetah is proving particularly difficult to find these days. If he isn’t perched on a log or up in a marula tree scanning for prey, the long grass of his territory makes spotting him an almost impossible task. When he does rear his head however, magic moments like this can happen… f4, 1/5000s, ISO 640, @ 70mm
The cub of the Mashaba female leopard, wonderfully relaxed around vehicles these days, saunters casually towards us. f5, 1/400s, ISO 160
A spotted hyena. Often misunderstood and certainly mis-portrayed in many popular animated films, hyenas are fascinating creatures with a highly complex social structure. f4.5, 1/1600, ISO 320
Two wildebeest bulls chase each other around Fluffies clearing. The pursuit lasted for over 15 minutes, with both males reduced to an exhausted trot by the end. f4.5, 1/1000s, ISO 320
Their necks arched and eyes closed as though in ecstasy, these two bull giraffe were in fact fighting for the attention of a female nearby, swinging their necks into each other with sledgehammer-like blows.F2.8, 1/1600, ISO 160
A gorgeous evening on my favourite clearing, Ximpalapala crest, complete with an elephant bull with magnificent tusks. For a first evening back from leave, it doesn’t get much better than this. f5.6, 1/320s, ISO 640
A tree squirrell nibbles on a nut while sitting on the stump of a marula branch. Photo by Richard Burman
I imagine you might have done a double take when you saw this. The reflections in the water, almost undisturbed after the ripples from their drinking had died down, were too beautiful NOT to try flip the photo for effect… f8, 1/800s, ISO 320
A wild dog ducks under the noses of some curious giraffes. Far too small to be a threat to them, the wild dog and his pack were soon to head back up to the crest where the rest of their pack had taken down an impala yearling. f2.8, 1/200, ISO 3200
The paw of one of the Sparta Pride sub-adults. They were so bloated with wildebeest meat on this morning that I have seldom seen more uncomfortable looking lions! f4.5, 1/500, ISO 320
Stopping for coffee is one of the best parts of a chilly Autumn morning drive. A biscuit had fallen from the coffee stand, and these Burchell’s glossy starlings lost no time in descending to pick up the crumbs. It was a great opportunity to get low to the ground for a fresh angle. f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320
The vertical stripes on the face of this young Burchell’s Zebra stallion make this photo for me. f3.5, 1/500, ISO 640
The morning sun catches the spray as a bull elephant drinks from Circuit Pan. f3.2, 1/4000, ISO 2000
The same sighting. Perfect viewing. f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 320
The tail of the Vomba female leopard in all its glory. f2.8, 1/1000, ISO 100
A herd of elephants drinks at Shingalana Dam. The dry season is upon us, and elephants, who have to drink everyday, are forced to focus their movements around the major waterholes and rivers. f6.3, 1/320, ISO 640
The Tutlwa young male peers on from a high vantage point moments after he was chased up a gnarly Marula tree by the Marthly male leopard. f4.5, 1/800, ISO 100.
One of the Majingilane Male lions on a Territorial patrol. We followed him throughout the morning while he roared and scent marked their boundary.
Canon 500d, F2.8, 1/1250, ISO 200
Sunrise over Circuit North as some Burchell’s Zebra pause to listen to the distant alarm bark of a kudu. f8, 1/200, ISO 320
After driving them off the remains of their kill, the warthog boar was unceremoniously chased off by the male cheetah cub, having harassed the injured female one too many times. f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 640
A lovely frame of the Mashaba young female leopard staring back at us through the Jackalberry branches. f3.2, 1/640, IS0 800
By simply comparing lions to other lions it is hard to get an idea of just how big and impressive they are. When they walk past a Land-Rover for reference however, it becomes a little easier to appreciate their size, as the scar-nosed Majingilane walks past ranger Byron Serrao’s vehicle. f4.5, 1/640, ISO 800
The scar-nosed Majingilane mates with the Tailless Tsalala lioness while her sister looks on. This was just the beginning of an epic evening spent with the pride and the coalition. All four males were there, arriving one by one, and spent over an hour in pursuit of the young Tsalala female. f2.8, 1/800, ISO 1600
One of my favourites in black and white, this Cheetah posed perfectly at the base of this Knobthorn.
The Majingilane approach with power and dominance.
This was one of the most incredible elephant sightings I’ve had this year. A seemingly endless herd just kept emerging out of the woodland near Lex’s Pan, with almost every individual taking the time to fling mud or water on themselves. f4.5, 1/640, ISO 800
A Majingilane side lit. (ISO 2000 f 5.0 1/100sec 200mm)
Some creative Zebra shots. (ISO 800 f 5.6 1/250sec 400mm)
Photographed by: Talley Smith, Henry Smith, James Crookes, James Tyrrell, Mike Sutherland, David Dampier, Rich Laburn, Richard Burman, Trevor McCall-Peat