Londolozi Highlights

Londolozi is well known for having amazing leopard sightings, and I certainly had one during my stay, but you’ll have to stay tuned to a future post to hear all about it and see the photos, as that encounter definitely deserves to be a post on its own (as does the Pangolin sighting!!!) 🙂
We had an absolutely fabulous time during our two night stay, and a lot of laughs with our ranger Dave and tracker Judas. I’d be back there tomorrow if I could (I think in fact I asked Phil the camp manager more than once if I could hide myself away somewhere just so I could stay longer).
The following are just a few of the moments that made me smile during my time there; I took over 1500 photos during my stay, so you can be certain you’ll see many more in the coming days and weeks.

This very blog was started after my first trip to Londolozi in 2013.  In case you missed those first posts, you can find some of them here (or use the search function at the bottom of my home page to find them all!)

My First Leopard Sighting

Leopard Sightings – Even Better the Second Time

Here is a link to my guest blog post from my first trip to Londolozi, in case you missed that:

A Home at Tree Camp

And now for the images – I hope you enjoy!

A small group of wildebeest gather around a tree, on a perfect autumn afternoon. 1/1000sec, f10, ISO360
A small group of wildebeest gather around a tree, on a perfect autumn afternoon.
1/1000sec, f10, ISO360
A saddle billed stork on one of the sandy banks in the river. 1/1000 sec, f9, ISO 560
A saddle billed stork on one of the sandy bars in the river.
1/1000 sec, f9, ISO 560
This photo brings me close to tears; I think it shows what I love best about being out in the bush, just bearing witness to the day to day lives of animals.  I absolutely love elephants, and capturing this tender moment when the youngster had a chance to suckle was one of the benefits of parking ourselves in the river and hanging out with this small family. 1/1000sec, f8, ISO 360
This photo brings me close to tears; I think it shows what I love best about being out in the bush, just bearing witness to the day to day lives of animals. I absolutely love elephants, and capturing this tender moment when the youngster had a chance to suckle was one of the benefits of parking ourselves in the river and hanging out with this small family.
1/1000sec, f8, ISO 360
We parked in the river to watch this small family group drinking and crossing the river.  What came next??? 1/1000sec, f8.0, ISO 400
We parked in the river to watch this small family group drinking and crossing the river. What came next???
1/1000sec, f8.0, ISO 400
Well and truly stuck! Our position in the river gave us brilliant viewing and photographic opportunities, but unfortunately left the land rover with tires at least half buried in the sand.  Dave was so worried that we would be upset at waiting for rescue and being late for breakfast, but we all had an absolute blast; just another part of the safari adventure!   1/1250sec, f16, ISO900
We got well and truly stuck!
Our position in the river gave us brilliant viewing and photographic opportunities, but unfortunately left the land rover with tires at least half buried in the sand. Dave was so worried that we would be upset at waiting for rescue and being late for breakfast, but we all had an absolute blast; just another part of the safari adventure!
1/1250sec, f16, ISO900
The tractor arrived to remove our stuck vehicle from the river; I'm not sure if Dave has lived that one down yet.   1/1250sec, f10, ISO500
The tractor arrived to remove our stuck vehicle from the river; I’m not sure if Dave has lived that one down yet.
1/1250sec, f10, ISO500
The result of having to call for rescue, Dave ended up with the dreaded pink ammo pouch.  I think it may be good luck though, as we had some amazing sightings after he took possession of it!
The result of having to call for rescue, Dave ended up with the dreaded pink ammo pouch. I think it may be good luck though, as we had some amazing sightings after he took possession of it!
Even after getting dragged out of the river, Dave still stopped in the sand along the river so I could photograph this beautiful white fronted bee-eater. 1/1250 sec, f10, ISO 1000
Even after getting dragged out of the river, Dave still stopped in the sand along the river so I could photograph this beautiful white fronted bee-eater.
1/1250 sec, f10, ISO 1000
The morning sky was like a painting, and I was happy just to sit and watch that;, stumbling across this herd of elephants made it all the better. 1/640sec, f5, ISO 3600
The morning sky was like a painting, and I was happy just to sit and watch that; stumbling across this herd of elephants made it all the better.
1/640sec, f5, ISO 3600
My first attempt at photographing lightning; I set up my camera on the tree camp deck under a patio umbrella, and let the camera do it's thing on a timer function while I enjoyed wine and dinner.  We were out on drive and returned just before the rain started, but watched the most intense part of the lightning from the vehicle on the way back to camp.  I'm pleased with the results for my first attempt; it was basically focusing and aiming at nothing and hoping for the best! 25sec, f11, ISO 800
My first attempt at photographing lightning; I set up my camera on the tree camp deck under a patio umbrella, and let the camera do it’s thing on a timer function while I enjoyed wine and dinner. We were out on drive and returned just before the rain started, but watched the most intense part of the lightning from the vehicle on the way back to camp. I’m pleased with the results for my first attempt; it was basically focusing and aiming at nothing and hoping for the best!
25sec, f11, ISO 800
A slightly different editing technique, but from the same storm as the other lightning photo (one of only a few periods of rain I had on holiday). 25 sec, f11, ISO800
A slightly different editing technique, but from the same storm as the other lightning photo (one of only a few periods of rain I had on holiday).
25 sec, f11, ISO800
I asked both my Dave's to find me owls, and they both succeeded :)  The light was not in my favour for photographing this southern white faced owl, but I really like this black and white conversion. 1/1250sec, f6.3, ISO 900
I asked both my Dave’s to find me owls, and they both succeeded 🙂 The light was not in my favour for photographing this southern white faced owl, but I really like this black and white conversion.
1/1250sec, f6.3, ISO 900
A couple of iconic African shapes - elephants and  cheetah. 1/250sec, f7.1, ISO 3600
A couple of iconic African shapes – elephants and cheetah.
1/250sec, f7.1, ISO 3600

My First Leopard Sighting

Londolozi is well known for the number of leopards they have living within the bounds of the property, and I was lucky enough to see three of them during my visit.  They were elusive at first though, and it wasn’t until our third afternoon game drive that we finally saw our first leopard; the lions stole the show for the first half of our visit.

The photo opportunities were slim based on how the vehicle had to park, and how deep under the bushes the leopard was.  Thankfully, the light was decent (unlike when we saw the lion cubs!) so I managed a few obstructed shots.
The photo opportunities were slim based on how the vehicle had to park, and how deep under the bushes the leopard was. Thankfully, the light was decent (unlike when we saw the lion cubs!) so I managed a few obstructed shots.

It was around 4:30 when Talley took a call that a leopard had been spotted with a fresh kill, and even though the viewing was not likely to yield great photos, we headed in that direction anyways, since we had yet to see a leopard.

When we found him, he was deep under some bushes with an impala ram.  He had already had his fill, but was still working on pulling the fur off of the impala.  The view from the vehicle was obstructed by the bushes, while I managed to get a couple shots and a short video clip, mostly I just watched.

This boy had a full belly, but he wasn't about to leave his kill for another animal to steal anytime soon.  As the light started fading, we left him alone so he could hoist the impala or drag it to a new location to avoid hyenas.
This boy had a full belly, but he wasn’t about to leave his kill for another animal to steal anytime soon. As the light started fading, we left him alone so he could hoist the impala or drag it to a new location to avoid hyenas.

We came across this leopard, as well as others, the next morning.  The photographic opportunities and the story of that morning viewing were amazing!

The Camp Pan male leopard with an impala ram, April 4, 2013 at Londolozi.
The Camp Pan male leopard with an impala ram, April 4, 2013 at Londolozi.

The Lilac-Breasted Roller

Lilac Breasted Roller

This little bird captivated me from my first sighting, but proved to be a difficult photography subject for the first couple of days.  Obviously there was the usual scenario – that birds don’t necessarily sit still long enough for photographs.  Then I had overcast weather or flat out rain that did not do the colours justice, or fading evening light.  But in the end, I managed several lovely shots, one of which is now framed so I can see it every day.

Lilac Breasted Roller

From Wikipedia:

“The Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus) is a member of the roller family of birds. It is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula, preferring open woodland and savanna; it is largely absent from treeless places. Usually found alone or in pairs, it perches conspicuously at the tops of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can spot insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds and rodents moving about at ground level.[2]

Nesting takes place in a natural hole in a tree where a clutch of 2–4 eggs is laid, and incubated by both parents, who are extremely aggressive in defence of their nest, taking on raptors and other birds. During the breeding season the male will rise to great heights, descending in swoops and dives, while uttering harsh, discordant cries.

The sexes are alike in coloration. Juveniles do not have the long tail feathers that adults do.

This species is the national bird of Botswana and Kenya.”

Lilac Breasted Roller

Lilac Breasted Roller, April 2013
Lilac Breasted Roller, April 2013

This is the photo that I have framed 🙂

Lilac Breasted Roller In Flight, April 2013
Lilac Breasted Roller In Flight, April 2013

Photographic Failures (Lion cubs on a fallen tree)

I look forward each week to the Londolozi photo blog. It brings me back to a place I loved and whets my appetite for a return trip. This week James mentioned two things that got me thinking. The first was a computer problem causing photo access issues – a great reminder to hook up my portable harddrive and do another backup (plus a secondary backup in case of a serious meltdown). The second was a photo he included that he noted was a photographic failure, but the story of the sighting was amazing (check out the week in photos #80 on the Londolozi site). Had I not had the explanation, I wouldn’t have gotten the full impact of the photo. Which got me thinking about the lion cubs we saw while at Londolozi.

The photos I have of the cubs include some of the most shockingly poor photos I have taken. Out of focus, odd colour, motion blur when there shouldn’t be, depth of field that was inappropriate for the situation, highly grainy & filled with noise… Honestly without the story behind the photos, people would probably think one of two things:

1) “That is the first time this person held a camera… and it didn’t go well.”

2) “The photographer was drunk.”

I can assure you that this gem was taken by someone, who although is in perpetual learning mode when it comes to photography, has definitely held a camera before, and was also stone cold sober (in fact, I’m quite certain I have managed far more in focus photos than this after a glass or three of wine. (I have no idea how I managed to cut her feet off and make her float.)

A floating lion, otherwise known as a photo fail, April 2013
A floating lion, otherwise known as a photo fail, April 2013

So why, out of 98 photos, did only a handful turn out?

The weather was poor when we headed out for our afternoon game drive – the ponchos went on right away, and I actually took my iPhone with me in case I couldn’t get my Nikon out (note to self, I need to get rain gear for my camera for the next trip). We found tracks of a lion pride, and followed them up through the trees and a dried riverbed, and eventually found the pride – with four adults and 7 cubs. As we had been driving, the weather got steadily worse. Lead gray skies, pouring with rain as well as cold and windy. Perhaps Mother Nature just wanted to ensure that the people from BC felt right at home in South Africa! I finally extracted my camera from beneath my poncho and instead of trying to coordinate manual settings, I just put it on auto – and the camera couldn’t focus (the joyous “Subject too dark” message – and wanting to us the flash on a subject 20+ feet away). Back to manual mode, I found that to get a correctly exposed photo,I would need to use an exposure time of around 2 seconds. Long exposures are great – with stationary objects and a tripod. Playful lion cubs? Not so much. So I snapped away using the slowest time I thought I could manage, and mostly just watched. Because when Talley and Freddy started saying things like “This is special – we don’t see this everyday” it was all about the experience. The camera was definitely a secondary consideration, and not something that would take my focus off the scene.

Four cubs on a fallen tree
Four cubs on a fallen tree, April 2013

The lion cubs played in the rain on a fallen tree – they climbed, wrestled a bit – they entertained us immensely, and the rain and cold didn’t matter at all. They stayed in the area a good 20-30 minutes before setting off. We were also lucky enough that day to see an old female lion, who has since passed on.

Two Lionesses, April 2013
Two Lionesses, April 2013

The lions gave us great viewing opportunities at Londolozi, from the mating pair on night one, to the beautiful male I wrote about earlier, to the playful cubs, and rounding out with a male and female stalking impala as we drove off in the transport on route to the airport (actually a male watching a female stalk impala). Not to mention the calls we heard throughout the night each night we spent at Londolozi.

Lioness with added watercolour effect, April 2013
Lioness with added watercolour effect, April 2013

Below are a couple of the shots I managed to salvage. The nice clear shots will have to live on only in my head – unless I’m lucky enough to see such a sight on my next trip, with far more favourable lighting conditions.

Cub in focus!!!, April 2013
Cub in focus!!!, April 2013

Three cubs on a tree, April 2013
Three cubs on a tree, April 2013