Third Game Drive, Afternoon of Day 2 at Londolozi
Somehow, we managed to fit in a dip in our own pool and a nap before the afternoon/evening drive. If it weren’t for having to see all those pesky animals, we could have happily never left our deck.
The hippo was still listing when we headed out at 4. Quite a bender it must have been on.
This starter rainbow was just an appetizer compared to what came later. Beautiful terrain again, with skies alternating between sun & clouds.
The above lovely impala is trotting along in front of a termite mound. Do we have a better picture of termite mounds? No. Did we see scores of them every day? Yes. Are they fascinating? More than you’d ever know. For example, the termites use an evaporation-based air-conditioning system that has been studied by engineers. The bigger mounds we saw can be one hundred years old, and hey are a vital part of the entire ecosystem in the bush. Sean’s verbal treatise on termite mounds should be a TEDtalk and alone is worth the trip to Londolozi. We only wish we had recorded it.
This was our only sighting of baboons out in the bush. We did catch a glimpse of some around camp, but they melted away into the bushes.
[ Dave: The lighting here is so beautiful. The trees stand out magnificently. I plan to create some separate blog “galleries” — of trees, birds, animals — when we get to a place that has better internet service. As it is now, each of these postings is taking way too much time due to slow photo and video uploading time. ]
Another rhino sighting (and a shout-out here to Chuck Rusbasan, now known as The Great White Tracker, who consistently rivaled Joy and Sean on sighting animals during our drives):
Even the dead trees had a regal beauty.
This afternoon’s drive featured a fantastic non-animal sight: a magnificent half rainbow, which doppled into a double rainbow, then decided to reveal its full span. These rainbows just wouldn’t quit and kept following us around.
We were so captivated by the magnificent rainbow — and the darkening skies — that we almost missed the kudus just ten feet from the trail.
When the dark clouds above us started to drizzle, Sean stopped to dispense industrial-grade rain ponchos. As we began to drive away, Dave called halt because he thought he’d dropped his camera case.
Luckily for us, Dave’s timing was perfect: just then, Sean and Joy spotted, on our left, only about 20 feet away, a mother leopard (Sean said about 7 years old), and her cub (about 11 months old).
Joy immediately abandoned the hood seat and climbed into the rover. We watched as the leopards played right next to us, getting closer and closer, until the mom suddenly leaped into a tree and crawled out onto the branch that reached within about five feet of us, at pretty much eye level. Sue, who was closest to the leopard, said, tentatively, “So . . . is this okay?” — expressing what we were all thinking. Sean said yes, even though the big cat’s weight shook the branch as it crawled out further, staring at us. We held our communal breath (but still snapped pictures non-stop).
Dave, on the leopard side of the jeep, had to switch to using Jen’s phone as his camera battery died, just at this unbelievably photographic moment. The rain now began to pour even as the sun streamed in from an angle below the clouds.
The leopards didn’t seem to notice the rain at all, except for an occasional full-body shake, and continued to tumble, wrestle, stalk, play-gnaw on each other’s throats, and bat at each other’s faces with their paws. Sean said the mom would instruct through this kind of play-fighting until the cub was about two years old, but still leave it behind when she went out to hunt. The mom would never take the cub out to hunt due to the danger, and cubs are expected to learn the actual killing on their own when the mother finally leaves them behind.
Sean called in another rover group to share this amazing sight, and we all watched and drove in short stops alongside them as they moved forward. At some point the rain stopped, but we all had wet butts as the drips rolled down our backs and onto the seats. We didn’t care because we were mesmerized. Eventually, the mom leopard started off on her own, walking directly toward us, then veering around the back of the rover. The cub eventually followed, taking the same path, and trailed her mom up the road. We’d watched the two of them wrestle and play for well over an hour. It was marvelous to see them so close, see how lithe they were, how beautiful the variegation and patterns of their fur was, and how it moved over the muscles of their shoulders and hips as they walked. It was easy to catch similarities to those domesticated felines we have in our homes, yet know, from the impala we saw the day before, that we did not want to reach out a hand and pet these kitties.
We were amazed at how little notice they took of us. Sean said this is partly because all of them have grown up around these vehicles, have never been threatened by them, or shot at from them. They just don’t see the vehicles as threats, and they don’t recognize the spectators as separate from the vehicle, as prey. Lucky for us!
This video Dave assembled shows most of the action over the time we watched them, including mom’s jump out to the near branch, followed by her stare-down at us, and later her walking straight toward our jeep. The playfulness of two was just too cute. Even Sean was snapping away, and included a write-up in his Londolozi blog.
We drove around a bit more, eventually stopping on a ridge road intersection for our sundowners. A hyena watched us from a distance of about 50 yards until Joy slowly walked toward it and it scampered away. Later, we returned to our lantern-lit camp for dinner, and relived the day’s glorious sightings.
Nota bene: just a reminder that WordPress won’t let us list both of us as co-authors, but this is definitely a partnership, with Jen doing more of the writing and Dave doing all of the photo and video research and uploading, which is taking way more time than it should with our internet connection here. We appreciate all your kind words and hope you keep reading. And that, if you haven’t already, you have a chance to go to Africa some day.