Published: June 29th 2012June 24th 2012
Apparently, he has 9x more testerone now than he usually does. Also, he is large.
In keeping with the routine at the lodge, we woke up early again for the morning game drive. An early encounter on the morning drive was an enormous bull elephant that was “in musk”, meaning he was looking to mate. Alfie told us this elephant’s testosterone level was 9x greater now than at other times, made obvious to Alfie by both his smell and the wetness surrounding his underside and legs. We quietly watched him pull branches out of high trees by stretching his trunk, but at some point his elevated testosterone got the better of him and he decided we should leave. Our guide and tracker remained calm throughout, but the change in their tones made it clear that they were taking his behavior quite seriously and before we knew it, our land rover was continuing off road at a pretty good speed with the elephant in pursuit. He chased us for long enough to give us a good adrenaline rush, but eventually he decided he had sufficiently frightened us and stopped his pursuit. (Bennett had the presence of mind to capture some of this on video and he later shared with us these images of our land rover being
Lauren with Elephant in the Background
This photo with Lauren smiling was taken just before the elephant decided it was time for us to leave.
chased, which was, in retrospect, very humorous). We found our way to a group of female and younger elephants and enjoyed some more peaceful time with this group before moving on in search of other animals. (We are told that, in general, elephants are very friendly, even deferential to humans, as long as you don’t get on their bad side). Alfred had gotten a report via radio that the female lions had been spotted and were heading towards a herd of buffalo. We took off in the Land Rover at speeds we had not previously achieved, hoping to catch up in time for any exciting action. We eventually found the group of lions, who seemed more interested in sleeping and grooming each other than in hunting. Although there was no carnage, it was still great fun to watch the group for a while as they hung out together. We were able to get amazingly close and take some great photos. As we headed out we eventually caught up with the herd of buffalo and spotted the leader making her way through the brush. Knowing the terrain well, Alfred quickly determined that the herd was headed towards a watering hole and
Buffalo at the Water Hole
You can see Bennett with his leather safari hat sitting in the tracker's seat with a herd of buffalo stopping for a drink in the background.
we turned and got there a few moments ahead of them. We watched as the leaders emerged from the brush and came down for a drink, followed by ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred, two hundred more. Andrew tried to count but was soon unable to keep up with the seemingly endless parade of buffalo. The antics around the watering hole were fun to watch, but again the amazing thing was being totally surrounded by a sea of these huge animals and watching them as though we were just part of the herd. After we had watched for a good long time we headed out and passed a land rover that had just spotted a group of zebras. Following their direction, we quickly found the zebras and were able to get up close to watch them graze and get some great photos. It was getting late in the morning so we found a nice spot for coffee and snacks near a small pond. As we approached, Andrew began shrieking for help and we think Alfred was already reaching for his rifle when we determined that the issue was a (very large) ant that Andrew discovered crawling up his leg. We gave
We watched this guy forcefully mash his head into the mud, right in front of us. He emerged with a nice coating of mud and looks like an animal not to be trifled with.
him a hard time about it, but he continued to remind us that it was a VERY LARGE ant. As we sipped coffee, we spotted a crocodile on the opposite bank and admired his lazy existence from a distance. There were hippos in the pond as well and Alfred gave us both the ecological and mythological explanations for how hippo and crocodile share the water in peace. We had asked to have a “bush walk” return from the drive, but Andrew was not old enough to join us so he and Bennett completed the morning in the Land Rover while Alfie, John, Sonia and Lauren hiked back with Alfie carrying the rifle. We learned a few basic rules and hand signals from Alfred and were quite edgy for the first part of the walk. We were suddenly a lot more aware of the sounds around us and frequently asked Alfred what they were. He always new exactly what they were and was quite clear on why they were not of concern. (e.g., “Oh, that’s just a hippo. They don’t come out of the water during the day”). We saw very few animals on our walk, which was really more about
These guys were one of the last animals on our "checklist". Up close, they are very beautiful and the sharp borders between white and black stripes is quite remarkable.
the tracks and the plants and insects that we couldn’t really observe from the Land Rover. We made it back safely and saw Andrew coming up the path to greet us. He stopped part way, fearful of the numerous monkeys in the vicinity and turned to run back the other direction. The monkeys pursued and we eventually caught up with Andrew, who had sought shelter in the gift shop. We relaxed through the middle part of the warm midday. Andrew and John cooled off in the plunge pool. Lauren fell asleep for a bit and Sonia perused the massive collection of photos we have taken during our first 36 hours here. Shortly before “tea”, Sonia and John went on a brief outing to explore the grounds. After photographing the monkeys playing, we headed down towards one of the other Londolozi camps and stumbled upon a nyala just a few feet off the path. Although he didn’t seem to take any notice of us, his large horns were sufficient to convince us to get ourselves back home. We collected ourselves for tea, and after enjoying more excellent food we were off for our final game drive. We drove a long way
These two seemed to like each other.
from camp with the explicit purpose of tracking leopard. When Bennett and Alfred picked up leopard tracks, Bennett hopped out and cut through the brush on foot, trying to follow a trail away from the road. Alfred left Bennett unarmed and on foot, and took off to look for the leopard in the land rover. Soon, Alfred spotted a female leopard, perched on top of a termite mound, and drove relentlessly over rocks, through ditches, across trees, more aggressively than on previous drives, and once again impressed us with this incredible land rover. We parked just about ten yards away and got a great view of this incredibly beautiful cat all to ourselves. Alfred radioed other groups to join us, and soon additional land rovers appeared, one of them carrying Bennett. When the leopard decided to move on, we slowly followed her along, and soon, a much larger male leopard came to meet her. We assumed this was a happy greeting but Alfred explained that the male was chasing her off. Leopards are quite solitary except for brief periods where they become interested in mating. She ran off and we stayed and watched the male for a long while as
Bush walk with Alfie
Sonia, Lauren and John walked back from the morning drive with Alfie (Alfie seen here with rifle). The three of us were pretty nervous for much of the walk.
he made frightening huffing and growling noises to make clear that this was his territory. Afterwards, we found a lovely spot for evening cocktails and enjoyed the beautiful twilight before heading back to camp. Alfred joined us at the dinner table that evening and he spent some time happily teaching Andrew a few card tricks. For dinner, John tried the loin of Impala which, like everything else we ate at Londolozi, was truly excellent. Back in our rooms, we packed up so that we would be ready to leave early in the morning for Victoria Falls.
There are more photos below