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The Highest Concentration Of Large Predators Anywhere In Africa

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

The reasons for that is still not understood after all these years.

The Sabi-Sand private game reserve is an area of private land sharing the western side of the six million acres of the Greater Limpopo National Park. The numbers of lion, leopard, spotted hyena and painted wolf (Africa wild dog) are impressive - at times overwhelming.

Sabi Sand comprises three private properties, including Londolozi where no hunting is done and Timbavati where hunting the big 5 is done. Even though hunting throughout South Africa is big and varied, it is only a very small portion of the outdoor activities of South Africans. Visiting the national reserves around the country and either staying in mid range chalets - or camping in own tents, big and small, we crave the regular break-out into wild nature.

Visitors will note the many, mostly Toyota, Ford Ranger (a Mazda, really) and Mitsubishi double cab trucks kitted out for "pack-the-food-and-clothes-and-go". Totally self sufficient for food preparation and sleeping. Nothing big like the American style homes on wheels, just the basic necessities and no luxuries - and all having four wheel drive to access the most remote places in the land. Typically with one or two rooftop tents. More of nature and least of civilisation. The object is nature, and to see and experience the quietness and the sometimes not-so-quiet dynamics and interactions in Africa's wilderness areas.

The private game reserves like the Sabi-conglomerate mostly cater for the upper market foreign visitor and have perfected the rare combination of utter luxury unobtrusively embedded into real wilderness. Not my personal style but they do supply a very high demand. In the end it is all about scenery and scenes. Some operators are a little "in the face" of nature, and some have a more artful style.

For some of us it is not all about big predators. Here are moments by Robert Crankshaw - the infrastructure manager at Londolozi. I appreciate his insights because they appeal to my own sense of being part of nature but not too close up. Zoom-capable long lenses allow the wide, as well as the narrow viewing ability of an eagle and Robert uses it to show the beauty of nature around the subject of his photos. Anyone can take just another photo of an animal, and then some know how to add a touch more of the moment. Here are some images that show a little of my land around the life is harbours. The experienced eye will notice the flat colour rendering as some photos were taken well before sunrise, making use of the inique ability of digital artificial sensitivity.

Decisions... Decisions... what will await us left? Lions still around their midnight kill of a Cape buffalo? Who knows. Maybe if we go right we'll see a family of elephant on a long trek pausing in the Sand river for a drink? Who knows what awaits a mere 400 yards along..

A painted wolf stares past our vehicle to where some zebra are grazing in the pre-sunrise grass.

The intense, totally unafraid stare of a baboon spider looking into the big macro eye of the Nikon. They are quite capable long jumpers and display that ability towards humans. Some people say it is to get into your shade - some say there is a more sinister goal..

The small predators will always impress with the elaborate webs they weave to enlarge the possibility of a catch. This "tent" spider's huge web resembling the wide Bedouin shady tents of Mauritania hazes out the trees behind it.

Walking towards the water. A lone leopard is seen as we leave the level ground and drive down the shallow bank into the colder air. Not to annoy him we stop and turn off the engine and stay quiet, amazed at him having ignored the vehicle sound completely but going where his nose and his instinct is taking him.

At the river we have patience and use our binoculars to scan every small avenue into the viewing corridors visible in the pre-dawn semi-darkness - and look at that! A crocodile lurking in his ambush spot, waiting for a large catfish which is the staple diet of Africa's most successful predator that has been with us for 150 million years, unchanged - because his original design was perfect. Of course they catch big animals too but that takes a lot of energy.

Pre-sunrise at the river - what we call the blue hour. A mere hint of pink in the east. Look at the same view below, one hour later. Lots of very loud noises by birds announcing the coming of day during blue hour.

That golden moment when the sun adds its light. Amazingly an abrubt quietness suddenly descends over the land as if everything is in awe for a minute and then Africa's loud vocal pronouncements by its varied avifauna explode again.

Blue hour, looking westwards, upriver. The smooth water belies the dangers lurking near the river banks.

Sunspots are what we look for when this longitude of the world is being lit up. those lightened scenes likely will contain something seeking heat. This guy had spotted us long before we saw him, and he is somewhat concerned - a little annoyed. The right front and left rear legs have been drawn up onto the horisontal branch in case a rapid slip down into the dense undergrowth is required. The full belly shows he had a successful hunt during the night.

Some alto-cumulus clouds show that the sun really have rays.

“Daggha” is Isi’Zulu for mud, and the older a bull gets the more he needs to take a mud bath because they loose hair and need the mud for UV protection - and against ticks. The oxpeckers who are the symbiotic company of Cape buffalo feeding off the ticks prefer the larger herds because the food supply is larger.

The very vocal Natal spurfowl - the males are loud, but the female with her recently hatched chicks makes soft, reassuring clicks when feeding.

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In winter the tree igama is well camouflaged against flying predators because many trees lose their leaves and expose the trunk dwellers. In summer they have bright radiant blue and green heads to attract the attention of the (as always) drab females.

Back and side-lighting of the rising sun on this lioness accentuates the shape and colour of her head and face. She is mildly interested in something at a distance. The nearer on is focused on some vultures as that always means the possibility to fight someone off its catch.

A still lactating lion cub warms his belly in the weak sunlight, lying on the dry bed of the Sand River - contented with life and almost disinterested in the Landrover that had stopped on the bank.

We head back to camp for brunch but do not relax our attention to the world around us. Another marula tree is not just another marula tree so we need to study each one we encounter. A clever habit if we are on a hike..

Back at camp we have this rare sighting - not because the purple crested turacos are rare - they are quite numerous as indicated by their unique calls - but they are unusually reticent, preferring trees with dense leaves and dark, shady cover. You mainly see it flying away. The bird’s unusual wariness shows in the keen eye looking back at the human being and it flew away immediately.

A grass roots level beauty only a mother can love. By midday a warthog female sneaks onto the lawn at the lodge and nonchalantly starts plowing up the lawn for juicy roots. Oh well, man is the intruder so it is her lawn, really.

Late afternoon visitors. A family of blue wildebeest walks past the lodge on their way for a last drink at the river and then the herd will gather in an open area for the night to have more ears and eyes to be alert for the ever present lion and leopard and hyena.

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