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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.
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.
Although the Big 5 is not all we revere or aspire to seeing on a safari, it was amazing that on our very first afternoon we could see all five species within the same area. This included a female leopard atop a termite mound in golden light and a pride of lions hunting buffalo.
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 a juvenile Martial Eagle descending 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 certainly gave us the best introduction we could have hoped for.
We flew on a small aircraft from Londolozi to Johannesburg and then onto Tswalu. The aim of our time in the desert landscape of the Green Kalahari was to see and photograph as many new, unique species as we could and we were not disappointed. In just three days we saw 29 mammal species. Some of the unique ones included sable, roan, oryx, bat eared foxes, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, Cape fox, desert adapted black rhino and even a sighting of the elusive Temminck’s ground pangolin. Heading out with the pangolin research team is a must-do experience offered at Tswalu.
Some of the other highlights included watching a pack of wild dogs on the hunt; animals that are the most endangered carnivores in sub-Saharan Africa. Another was spending a morning watching the antics of a habituated meerkat colony at their den site. They emerge to sun themselves after a cold night underground; groom, play and then bound off to hunt. Whether you’re a photographer or just enjoy watching, these animals are a firm favourite.
Another must do is a helicopter flip above the desert, on which we saw 17 white rhino, a desert black rhino, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, bat eared foxes, a variety of antelope species and even a caracal from the air!
Tswalu is the place to go to expand your horizons literally and figuratively!
After Tswalu, we had a quick overnight stay in Johannesburg before heading for Maun and catching a short flight into Qorokwe in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The camp is situated in the south east of the Delta and it’s name means the place where the buffalo broke through the bush into the water. This is a local word, which refers to the density of wildlife found in the area, which we can attest to. Botswana has experienced a severe drought this year and as a result animals were being drawn to areas like Qorokwe that still have good food and water availability.
Although not always easy to watch, one of our highlight sightings was witnessing a lioness killing a young kudu. We also had great leopard viewing and spent time with a female leopard hunting, scent marking and eventually resting next to the vehicle. The sheer density of animals in the Delta is what makes it so special and seeing lions, elephants, giraffe, zebra and hippo all within the same vista feels somewhat reminiscent of the Garden of Eden.
I can’t wait to return.
“Just over a week into my safari and I wonder how I’ve changed, if at all. Certainly the experiences I’ve had and things I’ve seen have shaped me in someway. But then, as if by some ancient, unspeakable memory, I remember… it’s in my blood.”