Day 19 Londolozi – South Africa day 5
Never a dull moment at Londolozi. We were lucky enough to have another private morning game drive. The other couple decided to sleep in and miss it. Oh boy. The weather was overcast all morning, which made it great. It kept the bit of warm air in the atmosphere trapped in and kept the sun trapped out all morning. Overcast stopped it from warming up too badly. It also made for perfect picture weather. No blaring sunshine everywhere ruining photos. The morning started rather slow. To summarize, we saw both the least and the most.
We were casually driving along and Jules starts chatting on his radio. Next thing I know Eckson jumps in the passenger seat from his front bumper seat, which always means something. Before I realized it we are in high-speed pursuit, I mean flying. It may have only been 20 or 30 mph but compared to the speed we typically drive, it was fast. This alone was a thrilling and exciting ride regardless of what we saw. Jules yells back to us that a cheetah was spotted near the property perimeter and that is where we are heading, and quickly. He informs us that cheetahs are the most rare animals to see in this area and there were no cheetahs for eighteen months until a couple days ago. So we were in a high speed, mad, mad, mad cheetah chase.
We drove into an area that we have not been anywhere near before today. It was an area that had recently been control burned. You could still smell the cinders. Animals still roamed this area but not as much. It is mainly animals crossing into or out of the borders. The cheetah chase concluded in a male cheetah awake and wandering the plains. We were told how lucky we were to see a cheetah. The fact that we are lucky is not something we need to be told. After we watched him stroll aimlessly for a while he went over to a giant termite mound and decided to take a load off. We drove in closer and were able to observe him for a while just relaxing, then looking around with paranoia, then relaxing again. While watching the cheetah Eckson heard mother nature call. I was glad because she was ringing me too. So with a cheetah a few hundred feet away we stood in the middle of the bush with our manhood in our hands and our heads on swivels.
After we left the cheetah we drove around leisurely for a while not seeing much except the beautiful landscape. All of a sudden Eckson jumps back in the passenger seat. I see nothing, but Jules and Eckson are looking around at the weirdest things. Trackers…you know. Out of nowhere they point at a big bush and say leopard. I see two animals lying inside the bush, but not very well. Our view was quite obstructed by the bush. Jules drives into a position so we can see better. I immediately recognize a leopard and another animal, I couldn’t believe they were lying nicely together…they weren’t. The other animal was a dead impala that the leopard had just killed. The leopard was sleeping and the impala was intact, just not moving or breathing. We couldn’t see too much, parts of each of the two animal’s bodies. We watched for a bit. All of a sudden the leopard wakes up and decides it is breakfast time. She grabs the impala by its dead neck and drags him a few feet away, giving us a better view. She proceeds to tear into his stomach. The sound of fur being torn away, flesh being ripped off, and finally bones cracking under the pressure of her teeth, it was intense. We were able to see a lot of it. At one point the leopard tears into the stomach lining and it sounded like a balloon deflating. I had our Contour camera recording, hopefully that video will turn out. We saw intestines spill out and drip, then gush blood. It was quite the scene. After she ate her fill she curled back up to fall asleep.
That was about all we saw, other than a few random, single animals. It was both the least and most we have seen in one drive. On the drive back to the lodge we saw a lilac breasted roller. I tried to get a photo and wish I could get a photo of it in flight. It is the most stunning bird.
The safari shows and video footage I have seen on TV make much more sense to me now. I always wonder how they were recording this footage? Why isn’t the cameraman getting mauled? The animals out here in the bush don’t care at all about these noisy, diesel smelling Land Rovers. They don’t view then as a threat. Nobody every gets out or stands up. The Land Rovers are just part of the landscape that will not hurt them, or help them.
Another great game drive tonight. I think today was the best, most unique day possible. One way to describe it is that today was the most quantity poor yet experience rich experience. I also never imagined that simply driving around the terrain in a Land Rover would be half the fun. The first thing that we spotted was something in a tree. We could see it from a long way away but not sure what it was. Turns out it was a dead, half eaten impala. The carcass was hanging in the tree, the head was drooped down hanging by a strand and the insides were on the outside. It was wild looking. Jules and Eckson knew immediately it was the kill and food of one of the leopards. After a couple minutes parked there the leopard, she did appear. She came out of the weeds and lay down quickly. She had eaten, was tired, and ready to rest. After a couple minutes she got up to move around. We all saw where she had a giant wound on our back leg. It was just a flesh wound, but very recent. Quite icky, to be technical. I got some fantastic photos of her and her injury. At one point she got really upset at us being there, or the camera sound. She started to stalk toward the Land Rover. We all admitted to losing a couple heartbeats. She sneered and growled at us, and came right up to the Land Rover. It was apparent she was not happy about us sitting between her and her refrigerator.
We saw the first jackals of the trip. It was a pack of dogs running around. The best part was to watch them scratch themselves like domestic dogs. I have not seen that in a couple weeks. Next Jules took us to a den where laughing hyenas were living. I don’t believe I knew that was an actual animal. I think I believed they were only in Bugs Bunny cartoons. They were babies, nine months old. The baby hyenas were hanging out on the front porch of the den. Dare I say they we adorable? I dare.
Then came the amazing closer to the day. It was around sunset and we came upon three rhinos. They were meandering slowly just giving us plenty of time to see them from all angles and get plenty of shots. Then as if by design for the tourists the rhinos slowed and stopped to drink from a small pond covered in algae. We drove to the far side of the pond to watch. The view was over a sparkling body of water, bright green algae scattered on top, the brown sand and color of the desert with a background of green grasses, a vivid sunset, and three rhinos. It was breathtaking, not to mention almost unbelievable. I wish my camera skills were up for the task, but unfortunately not quite yet. I still have a lot to learn. It was such the perfect scene that even one of the landowners of the Londolozi private reserve was in the same area videoing. He is one of the Varty’s, from the original family of owners.
Tonight is the last night for the couple from LA. We all had dinner together, the four of us, and Jules. Kirsty was too good for us tonight apparently. We had a fun dinner with the three of them. We all shared our near death experiences. I think mine is the best, but we all voted that Jules wins. A lion almost mauled Julius while he was essentially wearing sheep’s clothing.
A select few pictures here.