Londolozi is somewhere that has a special place in my heart. Having spent countless hours on the land and with the animals there, it was wonderful to return to the newly-refurbished Relais & Chateaux Pioneer Camp for four nights of bliss. I was traveling with two guests, Bob and Jen. This was Bob’s second trip to Londolozi and Jen’s very first trip to Africa. Londolozi proved to be the perfect introduction. And we couldn’t have asked for a better team than good friends James Tyrrell and Rich Mthibane.
Londolozi is situated at the heart of the Sabi Sands in South Africa, adjoining the world-famous Kruger National Park. It is renowned for having one of the first viewable populations of the shy and elusive leopard and is arguably one of the best places in the world to see these animals. But this mere fact alone doesn’t do justice to the enormity of the experience it offers.
As is so characteristic of Londolozi, we had a cracking start to our safari with a multitude of special sightings on the first evening game drive. We set out with the intention of tracking a pride of lions and whilst doing so came across some buffalo bulls and a herd of elephants feeding in the dry riverbed of the Manyeleti. They were feeding lazily amongst the llala palms, the sound of thick skin rubbing against tough vegetation. The sun was beginning to dip and so after some time we left them, returning to our search for the lions. One of the wonders of a safari is that plans are easily foiled and in our quest for the lions we stumbled across a leopard lying atop a termite mound catching the gorgeous, afternoon light. It was difficult to explain to Jen that it’s not necessarily always this easy.
Rich Mthibane, staying true to the tracker’s spirit, began to itch in the vehicle, knowing that his precious daylight was slipping by and so we dropped him off to continue looking for the lions and returned to photograph and observe the female leopard. Only ten minutes passed before he radio’d to say that he’d found the lions and that they were in the same vicinity as the buffalo we had only recently left. By this time the leopard we were with had moved into the thick riverine bush and so we headed towards Rich and the lions. From our vantage point we watched the pride creeping towards the unawares buffalo.
A very large rhino bull entered the fray and within the space of a few hundred meters we were surrounded by all the members of the Big 5. This is certainly not all we aspire to or revere on a safari, but for a first time game drive and for one of my guest’s very first drive’s ever, it was an incredible introduction to what Africa has to offer.
The wind was favouring the lions, they had found cover and the buffalo were feeding right towards them and positioned above them we had a clear view. The lion’s however showed a lack of patience or potentially an error in judgement and broke cover too soon. The buffalo took off and we watched as one lion leapt onto the back of a buffalo only to be shaken loose. The buffalo went thundering off, probably only to stop and catch their breath many kilometres away. We wondered off to a spot in a leadwood forest adjoining the river for some sunset drinks and to do the same.
Amongst many other sightings of big and small creatures, we watched two young cheetah hissing and snarling at an inquisitive hyena that was following them through the open grasslands, hoping they’d made or would make a kill. We watched a female leopard finishing off a duiker in an enormous Jackalberry tree as her six month old cub rested below. And witnessed an incredible moment as a juvenile Martial Eagle descended on a family of terrified banded mongooses, grabbing one and swooping across the road with it before landing nearby where it sat for some time, seemingly unsure what to do now that it had actually caught the small carnivore.
Londolozi describes the safari experience there as “a journey that immerses the senses and awakens the spirit. To have an encounter with wild animals in the African bush is to discover an essential truth about ourselves and our world”.
To this I can attest.