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For most of my life, I have loved both photography and nature. As a young girl, I remember the thrill of borrowing my mother’s small Kodak camera with a fresh roll of 24 exposure film – and maybe a flash cube – and that was a creative white slate for me. As a young adult I would seek out flowing oceans, streams, waterfalls, rolling hills and hiking trails in my free time… always with camera in hand. I realize now that the deep pull comes from nature itself – as it connects us to our truest instincts, to the rhythm and flow of life. Nowhere is that more true for me than at Londolozi. The harmony that exists at Londolozi is intentional and beautiful: amongst the people with each other, with the land and with the animals. Londolozi radiates cooperation, peace and hope – and the relationship between human, land and animal translates into unbelievable encounters. It’s almost – no exactly – as if the humans have fallen in line with the energy that all animals, trees, birds and the river follow instinctively and that is why the animals are so keen to let us into their magical world. Every time I go, I come back changed for the better. This was visit number three and hopefully one of many, many more.
Below are some of my highlights from my four night stay:
A Matimba male stares after females from the Mhangeni pride. It was both thrilling and tense watching as these males tried to chase down the lionesses.
The Mashaba female glances towards her youngster. This is the first female I ever saw in the wild, back in 2013, and thus remains my favourite to this day.
The Tsalala cubs play in the sand of the Manyelethi River, in what seems to me to be the perfect playground for a young lion cub.
A newborn zebra foal attempts to follow its mother on wobbly legs.
A mature elephant bull bathes himself in the cool waters of the Sand River. It was incredible watching him drink, spray himself with water and eventually cross the river, all right in front of us.
The Mashaba female plays with her one year old youngster. We spent an entire morning with these cats who seemed to thrive in each other’s company.
The Mashaba female grooms her youngster. It is likely that within the next 6 months to a year this leopard will be predominantly on her own and independent of her mother.
The Matimba males, captured whilst out on a cold morning’s territorial patrol as another Londolozi vehicle trails behind.
The Nkoveni female rests on the banks of the Sand River. Apparently this female’s name means “in the river” in English, which seems apt based on her movements.
The Tsalala cubs wrestle and play with one another, treating us to the most beautiful sighting and photographic opportunity.
The Tsalala cubs practise their hunting techniques by playing. Notice the extended claws, which will one day be used to bring down big prey.
The Nkoveni female sits atop a termite mound in plain sight. It still blows me away how relaxed these creatures are and how unperturbed by our presence they seem.
A gorgeous sunrise and a perfect way to start the day at Londolozi. The mornings are crisp and cool at the moment, warming to the most gorgeous temperatures by late morning.
A Matimba male finishes off a yawn as he strolls past the front of our vehicle. His coat is wet from patrolling through the dewy grass.
A Matimba male’s hot breath is captured as he walks in the cool morning air.
Written and Photographed by Londolozi Guest, Susan Strauss