Sabi Sands (a private concession adjacent to the Kruger National Park) is famed for leopards and perhaps no lodge is as well known for their relaxed leopards as Londolozi. While leopards are the main draw, overall the game viewing is incredible making this an ideal first spot for first time safari goers or wildlife enthusiasts. Initially a hunting lodge, the camp has been in operation since 1926 and many of the animals have become accustomed to vehicles, making it is possible to view them from a close distance. Leopards are generally skittish and dart away quickly at the first sign of humans. When they are spotted, it is often just a glimpse of their rosette patterned coats through the thicket. That is why it is so incredible to be able to view them relaxed and in the open at Londolozi.
Surprisingly, in four game drives we only came across leopards on one drive, but what a sighting it was. Two other vehicles had already found a female leopard with a bushbuck kill. When we arrived, we found her with her mouth clamped around the bushbuck’s windpipe slowly suffocating the animal, but also preventing it from making any noise that might alert other predators that she had made a kill. After nearly five minutes, she dragged the bushbuck into a thick area and began opening the carcass when two other leopards approached.
The male and the female leopard had been seen together over the past two days which normally only occurs when leopards are mating. The rangers surmised that they were both young leopards who had just reached sexual maturity. The male did not appear all that interested in the young female who was following him. Knowing that she could not fend off two leopards from her kill, the female leopard immediately left the area. We waited to see if the other two leopards would spot the carcass, but they seemed more interested in chasing her off. In the meantime a hyena approached, the hyena seemed to sense that something had happened, but was also unsuccessful in finding the kill. None of the predators seemed to have spotted the free meal. We followed the three leopards for a quite distance, but our ranger correctly guessed that the female leopard had outwitted the other two leopards and had returned to where she stashed the kill.
We looped back and found her devouring the bushbuck. She was hyper vigilant and kept raising her head and scanning to see if the leopards or hyenas would return and providing us with amazing photographs of her bloody face. An elephant approached while she was eating, but proceeded on without chasing her off. Then the two leopards returned. Having devoured nearly the entire hindquarters of the bushbuck, including pulling out and eating the intestines, she retreated. The male leopard found the unattended carcass and dragged it quite a distance into the tall river reeds. Although we lost visibility, we could hear him growling to prevent the other female leopard from feeding.
It was one of the most amazing interactions I have seen.
Besides leopards, we saw nearly every antelope species, a cheetah (which is quite uncommon given the dominance of lions and leopards in the area), giraffes, a side striped jackal, and loads of elephants. Although we did encounter lions, two new males were calling in the area and many of the prides were hiding their sub-adult youngsters as the new males would likely kill them. If you want to read more about which dominate males are likely to take over the Londolozi territory, follow the excellent Londolozi blog.
Londolozi has five camps on the property, and I had booked at Founders Camp. On my previous two visits I had stayed at Varty Camp and the principle difference between the two is that Founders has slightly more modern safari decor. Like most lodges in the price bracket, the service is excellent, the guiding and tracking superb, and guests will want for nothing.
Although I was only at Londolozi for two nights, on my first night I drifted to sleep to the sound of male lions calling, hippos grunting, an elephant trumpeting, and hyenas howling. It does not get any better than that.