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The drive started off as any other. Knowing we had the whole day to spend out in the bush takes the pressure off a little and allows you to go for the high risk / high reward options when it comes to looking for game. We decided to cross the Sand River and head north onto Marthly in search of the Tsalala Pride. Although not having been seen for about three days, Lucky and I were confident we would be able to find the two adult females and four three month old cubs that make up this portion of the pride.
On arriving at Nanga pan, close to our Northern boundary, we noticed vutures roosting in some of the dead acacias near the waterhole. On closer inspection, the area was littered with tracks of both the adults and cubs. We noticed a fresh set of tracks of just the two females heading in a northerly direction and soon realised that we were just too late-they had finished the kill and had now left the cubs to go and hunt again. Although we had a good idea as to where the cubs were, they are still too young to be viewed without the presence of the adults, so we moved off with the intention of returning in the afternoon.
It was now about 08:45 and on a normal game drive we may have thought it time to start steering a course towards the comforts of camp, coffee, bacon and eggs. However we were in the specially designed photographic safari vehicle, the weather was cool and we had breakfast packed in the back to enjoy when we pleased. We had heard via the radio that a portion of the Southern Pride, made up of five young males and one young female, had been found following a large herd of buffalo. Despite it being a long drive from the north, time was not an issue and we set off to see what would transpire.
We arrived to find the pride lying on a large termite mound in the shade of a Schotia, keenly eying the herd of buffalo no more than a hundred meters away. Some of the older females and males in the herd were in turn also aware of the lions, holding their noses to the wind and huffing and puffing in discontent. With the pride seemingly happy keep an eye on the herd from the comfort of the shaded termite mound for the forseeable future, we unpacked a breakfast of our own. There can’t be many more unique settings for breakfast than on the back of a Landrover, surrounded by two hundred buffalo and a pride of lion!
After seeing to our appetites we decided to let the lions rest for the time being and headed off to take some photos of the herd, some of whom were wallowing in a small pan nearby. Whilst doing this we soon noticed the bulk of the herd, which had previously been stationary, were now steadily moving off. Suspicious that something was up we returned to see six tawny coloured heads bobbing above the long grass as the pride slowly followed the herd. They then seemed to loose interest and sat again in the shade of a small tree-all except one that is, who continued his march toward the herd. Undeterred by his lack of backup, which was now some three hundred meteres behind, he tore into the herd alone, trying to take down a young calf. Predictably, this didn’t go down well with mom, who promptly chased, tossed and pinned him against what was fortunately a flimsy tree.
With all the noise and commotion, the cavalry from both sides came charging in-the pride sensing the possibility of a kill and the herd returning to help a member in distress. From here it was a chaotic game of tag, with lions chasing and jumping on fleeing buffalo, only for the herd to return and scatter the cats in different directions.
Soon one young male decided he had had enough. Under no immediate threat from any buffalo, he climbed the nearest Schotia tree in that awkward manner that only lions can manage. Another young male then found himself outnumbered and surrounded and was forced to clamber up a fallen tree no more than two meters off the ground. Engulfed by the enraged herd, he put up a defiant stand of growls and paw swipes. Eventually the herd moved off as the rest of the pride approached. He continued to lie in the tree for a few minutes, as if to convince the rest of the pride that he hadnt really run up there beacause he was scared, rather it was just a really comfortable perch from which to identify the weakest buffalo!
Time had flown and it was now 13:00. The lions were a spent force, so we left them to sleep it off and made our way to another of the sightings found on morning drive. The Short Tail Male leopard had been found with an impala kill draped in the branches of a large marula tree. We arrived to find him sleeping soundly in long grass near the tree. We needed some time to let the adrenaline subside, so parked in some shade and waited. We didnt have to wait long for him to get up, stroll straight up to the tree and launch himself into its branches. His movement into the tree had attracted the attention of a nearby herd of impala who frantically raised the alarm.
Unhappy with the unwanted attention, he decided it best to carry the kill back down where he could feed in the long grass, unseen by the impala and close enough to get back up the tree should the hyaenas arrive. On descending however, the head of the unfortanate impala caught in a fork in the tree. He could just reach its rump from the ground by perching on his hind legs and spent the next ten minutes pulling with all his strength to get it down. Showing just how powerful he truly is, he simply tore the entire carcass in half and sat, seemingly very satisfied with himself, feasting on the hindquaters before settling down for another nap.
It was time again for some food of our own and we set off towards the Maxabene River, taking in some beautiful elephant bulls along the way. After a late lunch in the riverbed and with just two hours of light left we headed towards the river, hoping to finally track down the Tsalala Pride and the cubs. On the way we bumped into one of the Maxabene young male leopards and then, not more than two hunred meteres later, the Vomba young female. It’s almost unheard of at Londolozi to spend just five or ten minutes with a leopard but (and I almost feel ashamed to say this!) this is what we did as we continued on north-leaving both leopards probably quite bemused, possibly even offended, by how few photos were taken of them!
It wasn’t long before we found exactly what we were looking for-a fresh set of tracks of the two females crossing the road in the direction we had assumed to cubs to be. On following them in we were greeted by two very fat and full lioness, four very playful cubs, and the remains of an impala ram stashed under the cover of a guarry bush. One of the females then dragged the carcass into the open and lay down and watched as the cubs got stuck in, playfully fighting over the best bits or taking turns in trying the “kill” the impala that with every movement of the carcass (caused by themselves of course) seemed to convince them it was fighting back!
As the light faded we left them to their meal and started heading back to camp to reflect on an amazing day. Any one of these sightings would have been amazing in their own right, but to see it all in one day was truly spectaular. After twelve hours in the bush, you couldn’t have found a more tired, sunburnt yet absolutely ecstatic bunch of people anywhere in Africa.
Recipe makes 16 large cupcakes
• 220g self-raising flour
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 220g caster sugar
• 220g soft butter
• Pinch of salt
• 4 eggs
• Zest of 1 lemon
• ½ cup milk
• Juice 1 lemon
• ½ cup water
• ½ cup sugar
• ¼ cup soft butter
• 3 cups sieved icing sugar
• Zest of ½ lemon
• Juice of 1 lemon
White baking paper squares
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180’C.
2. Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add lemon zest.
Sieve the dry ingredients together and fold in. Fold in the milk gently.
4. Carefully spoon the batter into the baking paper squares. Only fill ¾ full.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and risen. While baking, mix all the ingredients for the syrup and bring to the boil. When cupcakes are baked, pour over the hot syrup over the hot cupcakes. Cool on a cooling rack.
6. When the cupcakes are cool, make the icing by combining all the ingredients together until light and fluffily.
7. Spread a generous amount of icing over the cupcakes.
I frequently get emails from past guests who are desperate to recreate some of the recipes experienced at Londolozi. Top amongst these are the Lemon Syrup Cupcakes which are as simple to create as they are to enjoy eating. With the help of our fantastic Head Chef, Craig Paterson, and Executive Sous Chef, Petrus Morapedi, we present to you a very simple and easy way to make the same Lemon Syrup Cupcakes that we do at Londolozi
There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:sabi-
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.
The lions had just finished roaring when we began walking in the soft light of dawn. A chorus of birds marched along with us as we began the epic journey up the artery of the Sabi Sands Wildtuin. Our destination was the western fence line of the reserve, the exact point where the Sand River would enter the reserve before beginning its mighty charge down into the untamed wilderness below. It was 45 kilometers away and as the dust settled in the wake of each new track, the Sand River hummed softly to our right. This river was to be our guide, our teacher and the lifeblood of a true wilderness experience.
There is an endless bounty of biodiversity to appreciate in the Sabi Sands, a private wildlife sanctuary in the northeast corner of South Africa. Appreciating this nature from the relative safety and comfort of a safari vehicle, however, is a vastly different experience to observing it on foot. On foot, one is forced to reconnect with the senses and gain a new awareness of the surroundings as our very survival relies on how in tune we are with the breathtaking nature around us.
The brief to each other was simple: Our group of eight rangers was to stay off the beaten track and avoid areas where man’s footprint was most evident. As we walked in riverbeds, through grassy plains and lush thickets of scrub, we experienced a continual cycle of amazing encounters. We observed buffalo bulls, breeding herds of elephant and hippos out of the water and without them ever being aware of the group’s presence. We saw flocks of white storks, juvenile raptors and orioles. We breathed in the air and we walked until every muscle of our legs ached with exertion.
By the time reached the lookout, the calls of lions began again in earnest. This time however, they were much closer. The powerful roars exploded through the dusk and not 30 meters away, on the opposite banks of the Sand river, a lone lioness stared at our now silent group. With piercing eyes she caught our gaze for a second, then flicked her tail and melted back into the reeds to join the rest of the pride. After dark they would swim across the river leaving only their footprints for us to muse over in the morning.
The following midday heat of the summer sun underlined to us the harshness of nature. Walking silently for hours on end, we would become lost in our thoughts about the wilderness and these animals. A constant battle to survive by avoiding predators, finding food and water as well as shelter and breeding opportunities; these are everyday struggles that the animals of the African savannah face, and ones that we as humans were also immersed in once-upon-a-time. For these animals, they do not conceive of their own petty strivings for they are insignificant in this place, in this vast primeval world, a true wilderness. Amidst the silence we all knew that if only all people could at one time or another be set down in this place, even for a brief space of time, that they might return to their lives renewed and invigorated, all of their subsequent striving less vicious, less stressful and more attuned to consistent presence of nature.
So lost in this wilderness experience did we become that a strange air of disappointment hung briefly at the sight of the western fence line. Although our goal was achieved, the journey was over. Yet with this ending I realized that the journey itself was far more profound. We had seen the Sabi Sands Wildtuin from a new perspective, one that was different to traditional experiences that other safari destinations so generously afford.
This Game Reserve is an Eden which has so much to offer and is a magnificent place to go on safari, to experience wildlife, and enjoy the exclusivity and true solitude of the wild. In just two days we had forgotten ourselves, at least briefly.
We revel in the knowledge that wilderness still exists, the natural order endures, and the pulse of Africa resonates as deeply as ever ever.
As the weeks drifted on into March the younger members of the Sparta pride once again pushed the northern boundaries of their territory which lay close to the airstrip. The inexperienced faaction was feasting on a giraffe when the tables turned on them. The two confident Tsalala lionesses surprised the young lions, chasing them off the carcass before claiming it for themselves.
Now, one week later, the two Tsalala lionesses were themselves halfway through a wildebeest when the Majingilane coalition arrived on the scene…
Without hesitation, the four males went straight for the carcass, pushing aside the lionesses and fighting amongst themselves for scraps. Left with nothing the lionesses lay down leaving the males to feed. Sitting quietly, the pair licked their paws, content in knowing that even though they had lost their kill, they were winning the ongoing lion warfare. With conflict and aggression around every corner, this was the offering to the males for their protection and this was the priced that needed to be paid to ensure the future of their cubs…
The Majingilane coalition had come to the rescue of the two Tsalala lionesses in February. The panicked lionesses were on the airstrip with the aggressive Sparta pride hot on their heels. With the gap between the two prides swiftly closing, the Majingilane coalition suddenly began to roar. The ground shattering force of the four male lions echoed across Londolozi and caused the Sparta pride to bid a hasty retreat back into their territory.
“The Art of Tracking may well be the origin of science. After hundreds of thousands of years, traditional tracking skills may soon be lost. Yet tracking can be developed into a new science with far-reaching implications for nature conservation.” – Louis Liebenberg (The Art of Tracking).
The Tracker Academy endeavors to contribute significantly to the preservation of indigenous knowledge in South Africa by creating passionate African naturalists. The aim of the program is to empower the custodians of Africa’s wilderness to preserve the continents last remaining wild areas. By the skills they learn through the Tracking Academy, these naturalists will bring authenticity and accuracy to environmental education, anti-poaching, eco-tourism, data collection in field, research and conservation.
The Tracker Academy recruits candidates from disadvantaged communities whose dream it is to work in conservation, and who show an aptitude in traditional skills of tracking. From there they are trained in a 1 year, full time intensive tracking course, led by 3 experienced trainers. In addition to tracking, the course also focuses on developing conservation and life-skills such as literacy and positive health.
The Tracking Academy is made possible by the Rupert Nature Foundation and is a partnership between the SA College for Tourism, Samara Game Reserve, Londolozi Game Reserve and Alex van den Heever. The SACT operates under the auspices of Peace Parks Foundation with the financial assistance of a number of national and international donors including the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the Swedish Postcode Lottery Foundation. To find out more about the Tracking Academy and how you can be involved visit – http://www.trackeracademy.co.za
A few weeks ago we published the first ever footage taken of the four new Tsalala pride cubs. Spending much of their time up on the rocks at Marthly Pools, the new pride have continued to use this area as a den site and now, more aptly, a play site.
As is the case with vulnerable new cubs, the Tsalala Lioness has periodically moved them away from the site as well. Not willing to risk the threat of hyenas, it is important that the cubs are also exposed to new environment and exercise. Both the four cubs and the Tsalala lionesses have been spotted west of Marthly Pools, in various different locations throughout the Manyelethi River. This lush riverine paradise is both thick and ripe with prey.
All four cubs are stunningly cute, however there is one which stands out. One cub who is slightly smaller and has an unfortunate limp in his back leg. Out of the four cubs he is the smallest and, sadly, the runt of the litter. His disability is not noticeable until he starts walking and lags behind the movement of the pride. He is also, of course, the cub which we are most interested in seeing if he matures to adulthood. There is something evocative about survival against the odds and there is something inspiring about the way in which lions seem to continue to do this….
Although the cubs are still suckling, their mother needs to hunt to maintain her strength. Together with the other Tsalala lioness, the pair are working together to ensure that the rebirth of the Tsalala pride continues to be successful. The second lioness was captured mating with one of the Majingilane Coalition by Tree Camp guest, Ben Ford. Time will only tell if she falls pregnant or not, however the potential for the longevity of this pride once again provides enormous excitement.
Varty Camp is the heart and home of Londolozi, the crucible from which the campfire has burned for over four generations and eighty five years. Fusing family, tradition and specialist photographic safaris, the newly refurbished Varty Camp offers one of the best value for money safari experiences in South Africa.
At the end of a four year refurbishment campaign, the Grand Lady of Londolozi has had the final jewel placed back into her crown. With new salas, plunge pools and softs, Varty Camp has truly been turned into a family bush home where both adults and children are welcome.
This camp is all about tradition, laughter and storytelling. From sipping an ice-cold Pimms on the Varty deck, gazing out into 18 000 hectares of exclusive traversing to sitting around a boma campfire and listening to stories of the past, Varty Camp has a tangible feeling of soul, place and a sense of essence.
Open since the beginning of March 2011, Varty Camp invites you to become one of the first individuals to stay in the beautiful new rooms and experience first hand the magic of where Londolozi first began.