About Rich Laburn
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.
Latest Posts by Rich Laburn
Three years ago a young woman burnt herself to death in a Rajasthani village in India. The drums of a wedding procession drowned her screams till it was too late. For Dhapu just 30, the mother of five children, lively, bright, beautiful, the pressures of having to take on the support of her widowed sister-in-law and her family of four, proved too much. Her husband’s income as an agricultural labourer in this particularly dry, deprived part of Eastern Rajasthan did not match his sense of family honour. Ironically, sadly the group of us who rushed – too late – to save Dhapu from her self-immolating flames were working to create economic alternatives for women just like her. Today – as part of the Dastkar Ranthambore Project – Dhapu’s eldest daughter Indira, her widowed sister-in-law, and her sister-in-law’s daughter Pinky, are among the most prosperous women in Sherpur village – earning their own livelihood through their own inherent skills.
The Ranthambore National Park spreads over 400 sq. kms of dry deciduous forest in the Sawai Madhopore district of south-east Rajasthan. It is one of the finest natural tiger habitats of the world. Creating this space and freedom, however, meant that villagers, whose ancestors had for centuries lived within the environs of the Park, lost their homes and had to be resettled. Though these villagers were settled in areas just outside the Park, they lost their access to wood, water and traditional farming lands. As an initiative to support these villagers, the Ranthambore Foundation was created with the objective of acting as a catalyst in rebuilding the displaced communities’ social and economic foundations. It was in this context that the Ranthambore Foundation approached Dastkar in the spring of 1989 to take charge of the income generation program for the village crafts persons, particularly women.
Enter Dastkar Ranthambore. Located next to Shar Bagh Luxury Tented Camp, this Rhajisthan-based co-op produced handicrafts created by local villagers, particularly women from the surrounding areas.
The women at Dastkar Ranthambore create designs out of locally made linens and fabrics.
Inside the craft center lies a wealth of beautifully crafted local goods.
A selection of crafts at Dastkar Ranthambore
A selection of cottons, bags, fabrics, tablecloths and T-shirts are but a few of the choices to make
Shan Varty appreciates the fine fabric which make up this particular item.
The influence of the Tiger from the surrounding Ranthambore National Park is extremely evident!
Dastkar Ranthambore – A Women’s Self Help Initiative since 1989
When ranger, Jess Boon arrived back from morning game drive one day last week talking about a ‘blue-eyed’ elephant calf we all thought that she possibly needed to go on leave after her six week cycle as we could only assume that she was seeing things. So with no hesitation, she got her camera out to show us and true to her word, she had pictures of a half pink, half grey, blue-eyed elephant.
This truly intrigued me, as it did the entire Londolozi ranging team, so I decided to do some research. This was a much greater task than I originally thought, as there have been no more than a handful of these elephants recorded with this same ‘skin defect’. It is believed that these calfs are partially albino. Various gene mutations that affect the production of normal pigmentation is called Albinism. Albinos that are fully white and have characteristic pink eyes due to the lack of melanin and are reffered to as true or amelanistic albinos. Albinos that are partial, also refered to as blue-eyed albinos, only have some residual pigmentation. There are various degrees of patchy albinism (piebaldism) due to localised mutations in skin cells.
In this instance as well that the other recorded intances where this has happened, they calfs are treated normally by their mothers and the rest of the herd. I am hoping that this will ensure that the calf makes it to adulthood, although, there have not been any records of adult elephants with this partial albinism. It is not known whether these calfs grow out of it or whether they dont survive to adulthood due to the sensitivity of their eyes and skin to the sun.
If anyone has any other ideas about what the cause of this might be, please let me know!
Photographed by Jess Boon and written by Kate Neill
New to the Lowveld, Mike Sutherland has found delight behind every bush as he shares some of his favorite photographs taken in the South African bush.
Golden Maned Majingilane – The trials and tribulations of the lifestyle of a male Lion coalition intrigues me, and the constant pressures they face from neighboring coalitions for land, territory and prides. This photograph forces me to be ever curios of their fascinating lifestyles.
Flap Necked Chameleon – Uncommonly found on the ground unless looking for a mate or to lay eggs. This photograph shows such great contrasts in the colours of the skin as well as the sharpness and the inquisitive eyes.
Yellow Billed Ox Pecker – On the left a juvenile Red Billed Ox Pecker and on the right, a rare Yellow Billed Ox Pecker. A bird i have been searching for since I began my guiding career. A great lifer for me and luckily a photograph to prove it.
Ximpalapala Cub – Definitely a stand out for me. My most memorable sighting on Londolozi to date. Here one of the Ximpalapala Twin sisters peers curiously at our vehicle. I cherish each and every sighting with these Leopards.
Xidulu Den site – Hyenas offer great game viewing, especially at the Xidulu Den site. This picture, personally, represents intrigue and intelligence from a somewhat tainted view of the species.
Vomba Cub – My first real look at Vomba’s young male cub. Now almost 1 year old, offering great viewing and relaxed with vehicles after many months of hard work by the committed ranger team.
Sparta Pride – Positioning is key in a sighting to get the best photographs. this sighting didn’t go as well as planned initially, however when these lions settled metres from our vehicle, it allowed an opportunity to get some creative photographs.
Scarlet Dragonfly – The African Bush is renowned for the Big 5, hunting Lions and Leopards in trees, however, there is nothing more rewarding than paying attention to the smaller details in life.
Scar nose male being reprimanded by on of the 6 young Sparta males. Perhaps setting a standard for the future.
Scar nose Majingilane in Black and White – Pride, Passion, Power. Enough said.
Mashaba Cub – The eyes of this beautiful cat, golden and innocent.
Marthly Male and Tutlwa Female – I was fascinated here, when the Tutlwa female tried to seduce the male whilst on the arm of a Marula tree. Each day holds a new lesson and experience.
Marthly and Tutlwa Mating – Shortly after the previous picture, both Leopards descended the tree and allowed us the rare opportunity to view the intensity of their lifestyles and uncommon interaction together. My first view of Leopards mating.
Captions and Photographs by Mike Sutherland
South Africa. Lions and Lioness Play. Now at an uncomfortable height, the younger Tsalala lioness pauses whilst she contemplates her next move.
From there she precariously regained her balance to plan for her next move. We did not think that she would go higher, but she did. The leopard was now growling and snarling furiously at the lioness only three feet away.
An incredible moment frozen in time as the two super cats snarl at each other from less than 5 feet.
She could not get any closer on the smaller branches, and after some thoughtful planning turned on the branches to retreat. This was not easily achieved, as she did not have many choices in getting back down. Very clumsily she dropped down to the lower branch and from there almost fell down to the ground when attempting to climb down the vertical Marula trunk. The lioness then quickly joined the other female to feed on the impala carcass.
Lions are not the most graceful of climbers, and are completely outmatched in the treetops by leopards. Their vastly superior strength, however, can result in deadly consequences for a leopard should it find itself cornered.
Awkwardly descending headfirst, the lioness makes her undignified way down the tree, leaving the leopard unhurt above her.
The leopard, who had narrowly escaped serious injury and possible death remained in the tree canopy and observed as the lions consumed his hard won meal.
As if this was not enough suspense, another well known individual arrived on the scene some minutes later. The Marthly male leopard, a dominant and territorial cat which had been mating the Tutlwa female had heard the commotion and came to investigate. After looking from a distance at the lioness’s on the stolen kill, he quickly picked up the scent of the young male leopard who was also one of his offspring. He tracked the young male down and knew that he was not a threat and would therefore not need to execute any force to assert himself. The Marthly male merely gave the young leopard a threatening look and then proudly scraped and scent marked the ground beneath the tree and casually left the area. The young Tutlwa male leopard was forced to spend the next twenty minutes in the tree before he decided to make a hasty descent and quickly vanished out of sight. He had certainly learnt a big lesson on this morning.
The Marthly male moves in to investigate the commotion
Astonishing, seeing this interaction of these big cats up close! Luckily there were no injuries, as can often happen.
Safe for the moment in the higher and thinner boughs of the marula, the Tutlwa young male regains his breath.
We viewed the two lionesses as they finished their meal and then continued South on our drive. On the way we met the Marthly male leopard again and followed him further down to the Sand River before bidding him farewell.
With all of this action in mind we then slowly made our way to a lookout over the Manyeleti River and stopped for a break in the morning sunshine to reminisce what we had just witnessed. What a great way to start the day!
Written and Photographed by Lawrence Weitz
Filmed by David Crawford
India is a remarkable country and home to arguably the most iconic Big Cat in the world. Amidst almost daily reports of declining Tiger populations and reductions of national parks, it was with much interest that I visited the country to witness for myself just what a Tiger Safari in India is actually like. Jaisal and Anjali Singh were our hosts at their spectacular ‘Sher Bagh Tented Camp‘ next to the Ranthambore National Park.
Despite the wealth of cultural, historical and gastronomical experiences that this Relais and Chateaux camp offers, our goal was to see Tigers and lots of them! To do that we drove a short distance to Ranthambore National Park.
After a short drive from Sher Bagh, you reach the first ancient entrance that takes you into Ranthambore National Park. (see below the ancient entrance).Jaisal was optimistic. A veteran of Ranthambore, he first visited the park shortly after birth and saw his first wild tiger at the age of eight weeks. To say he has had a lifelong love affair with these mesmerising creatures is spot on. As a child he would spend months on end with his father who was making documentary films about the tigers. Years later, Jaisal pioneered the Tiger Safari experience at Ranthambore, by opening one of the first camps, Sher Bagh, in the now vibrant town just outside the park.
Within our first hour we discovered the first of many tigers in our experience. This young male tiger glanced over his shoulder as our vehicle softly rolled in and as his gaze caught ours, a sudden leap in excitement thumped through all of our chests. Tigers are enormous, powerful and incredible enthralling to be in the presence of. Soft fur is concealed between the mesmerising stripes and vibrant orange of their coats.
My first Tiger in the wild. This young male glanced over his shoulder to lock his gaze on our vehicle before standing up to face us.
A distinctive pink nose, piercing eyes and massive bulbous head are typical of the Royal Bengal Tiger.
Ears alert, nose twitching and a stare that leaves you with a sense of awe and raw fear are what makes the experience of viewing wild Tigers so primal.
An then there were two… The gaze left us as this young male’s brother soon appeared behind our vehicle and piqued his curiosity. Shortly after seeing him, this tiger walked straight past our vehicles to disappear into the wilderness with his counterpart.
The Tiger viewing is not the only thing which makes Ranthambore a spectacular place to safari. Personally I thought the scenery was incredible beautiful and not dissimilar to various parts of the Southern African wilderness that I have experienced. When the first pair of tigers left us, we drove further down the road to witness incredible vistas such as this one…
Ranthambore National Park. Below is the entrance:
Yet the view didn’t last long as Jaisal led us further into the wilderness, keenly searching for evidence of tiger activity that we could begin to track down. From the rocky hillsides into the riverine systems in the valley, we did not have to wait long as a single track indicated a large male tiger crossing the road to our west. Within minutes we had taken a road heading in this direction to discover an enormous male tiger resting on the side of the road.
What makes Ranthambore such an fantastic place to view wild tigers is both the growing population of the species as well as there habituation to the presence of vehicles full of tourists.
In a moment suspended in time, the entire bush fell silent as the tiger listened through the tranquility before gracefully rising without a sound and padding softly across the road.
After four decades in the safari industry, Dave Varty savours the experience of viewing his first wild tiger.
Just look at the muscle in the shoulder of this tiger.
This male then sharpened his claws against a tree and disappeared as the dusk settled in.
The following day our excitement was just as palpable and we made a concerted effort to visit a remote region of the reserve where a tigress had been heard calling. After a lengthy drive through more stunning terrain, we discovered this beautiful female.
Without the intimidating energy that are typical of male tigers, this female practically ignored us as we snapped away at her poses.
One of my favourite pics of the trip, this Tigress stands up to reveal a full portrait of her elegant form.
Padding to the waterhole she drank deeply and then wandered off into the wilderness.
Our sincere thanks to Jaisal and Anjali for giving us the most incredible introduction to Tiger Safaris in India. We shall return soon!
Written & Photographed by: Rich Laburn
One of the most interesting experiences we had on our educational trip to Cape Town was at the Bean There Coffee Shop. This incredible coffee company is where all of our ground and whole coffee beans that we use at the lodge come from. During our time there we watched exactly how the art of making coffee is done!
The staff having coffee made for them
In between watching the coffee beans go into the roaster and come out fresh with that brown oily coat, ready to make some delicious espresso, we ordered the most exquisite cappuccinos and the Bean There team showed us some techniques on how to make the best foam and coffee art. The presentation of their coffee was amazing and something that we strive to reach at Londolozi.
Cry with his own cappuccino
Duncs getting his lesson on the coffee making process
Bean There has a range of Fair Trade coffee from regions such as Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania, two important elements which Bean There is well known for. In the LobsterInk Coffee course, which is filmed at Bean There, we learnt about the importance of coffee and the many different ways people drink coffee all over the world. We start with where the coffee is grown and learn the process that the beans go through “from the crop to the cup” (very similar to the Waterford Experience and getting a taste of the region when you try beans from different countries).
Duncs imparting his knowledge of coffee beans on Tresta
Phaneul enjoying the coffee!
Tresta ordering her own coffee after learning all about the process of making a good one!
All the staff were blown away at the artistry and craft behind creating such amazing cups of coffee and now that we know the complex process that coffee beans go through before they end up in your cappuccino we can give the guests a real experience of the senses when they drink their coffee and take them around the world with different recipes and beans.
A Big Thank You to Bean There for having us!!
Written and Photographed by: Trisha Siegel
Southern Africa. Anthony Goldman gets shots of leopards with cubs, lions and a wonderful variety of birds, hippos and more. Here are some of his photographic highlights…
A blister beetle. They secrete a nasty substance that can produce painful welts.
The Camp Pan male drinks from a pan.
A beautiful shot of a crocodile lurking in the reeds.
An unusal bird for the area, a crowned hornbill.
The Sparta pride and cubs.
Two elephant calves engage in playful antic.
A male giraffe browsing on a buffalo thorn.
The Marthly male leopard with a fresh wound in his right leg.
The Marthly male leopard in the long grass of a summer’s evening
The Mashaba female leopard and her cub.
A rather intimidating crash of white rhinos.
A Sparta pride cub using a rather unorthodox pillow
One of the Tutlwa youngsters with its very distinctive pink nose
The Vomba female shows off her gorgeous dark coat
The Vomba female and her cub
A white rhino engaged in some serious wallowing
Long tailed paradise wydah.
Zebra and foal.
Photos taken by Anthony Goldman
Cape Town South Africas for lobsters. We stayed our first night in the MannaBay Guest House in Gardens. The warm welcome we received from the staff at MannaBay gave us an idea of how guests feel when they arrive in a place for the first time. We were greeted with smiles and hugs and a beautiful display of canapés and champagne. The guest house was beautiful.
The Evening Dinner Table set at Manna Bay for the staff
We made our way through the streets of Cape Town with Duncan as our driver, showed us the sights. For sundowners we met the Lets Sell Lobster team who developed the service training program that we use at Londolozi. It was amazing to see the site and meet the team that we watch on our training videos everyday. With the most beautiful setting and wonderful food and service we relaxed and had lots of laughs with the team. We were also able to thank them for giving us the opportunity and the tools to learn five star service and hospitality techniques using their LobsterInk training program which largely contributed to the purpose of this trip.
After drinks and pizzas at the Round House we drove past the bustling beachfront bars of Camps Bay where we saw all of the beautiful and ‘trendy’ people of Cape Town sipping on exotic cocktails and we headed for the beach.
This was the first time most of our staff had ever seen the sea, much less walked into it so there was a lot of excitement amongst us. Tresta even decided to lay in the waves fully clothed! All of the guys grabbed plastic bottles to fill with sand and sea water because in the Shangaan culture if you drink the salt water from the sea it will cleanse you and get rid of all of the evil spirits in your body. It is also said to bring good luck!
The next day, we woke up bright an early for breakfast at MannaBay and departed forWaterford Wines in Stellenbosch. We drove up the stunning entrance to Waterford through the clementine trees just before sunrise. We were then met by Kevin Arnold, the Waterford winemaker, who spent the day with us, telling us “the story outside of the bottle”
The crew helping the Waterford staff with the grape picking
After Waterford we headed back to Cape Town to conquer Table Mountain! We took the revolving cable car up to the top of Table Mountain where we had the most amazing view of Cape Town. The guys were so excited to see Robben Island as well as the Green Point Stadium. We could point out Camps Bay where we went into the sea as well as the winelands where we were that moning. It was an beautiful sight and Simon commented that it was the closest we will ever get to God.
In the middle of a busy day we popped into the Bean There coffee shop which is where all of our ground and whole coffee beans that we use at the lodge come from. It is also the sight where the LobsterInk training course is filmed. We watched the coffee beans going into the roaster and coming out fresh with that brown oily coat, ready to make some delicious espresso!
After that we headed to the Waterfront to check into out luxury apartments and have a quick tour of the Waterfront shops and restaurants. We saw many of the hotels where our guests stay before or after they visit Londolozi, such as the Cape Grace and The One and Only. We also got to visit the Basqule bar at the Cape Grace which has over 400 different types of single malt whiskey! Caven was thrilled he didn’t have to do their stock take!
For sundowners that evening we drove up Chapman’s Peak and arrived at the picturesque Tintswalo Atlantic Lodge with our former Londolozi Family members Alex and Craig Paterson. The lodge was beautiful and unique, hidden in the mountains right above the sea. The staff were warm and welcoming and treated us like family. Alex (the operations manager) gave us a tour of the lodge with it’s island themed rooms and we finished off with drinks and canapés on the deck watching the sun go down over the Atlantic Ocean. It was absolutely breathtaking and a wonderful way to spend our last Cape Town sunset with our friends.
Seeing former Executive Chef, Craig Paterson
Group at Tintswalo. At the end of the day, we participated in a good luck tradition of throwing a stone over our right shoulder into the sea.
Contributed by guest writer Trisha Siegel