Tag Archives: Lion

A day in Pilanesberg: Hour 6

We’re still on a high from our sighting of Rain the cheetah and her cubs when we turn from Nare Link into Sefara Drive in the Pilanesberg National Park, following the road uphill. Before we even crest the rise we become aware of the sound of thundering hooves moving at speed…

Buffaloes!”

The Park’s buffaloes are so seldomly seen that they’re known as the “ghosts of the Pilanesberg”, and any encounter with them is a thrilling treat. Even more so these particular buffaloes, as they are in quite a rush to get away as quickly as possible, allowing only a few photos as they run past us, thankfully without smashing into our vehicle. Was it us who scared them?

As the buffaloes stampede down into the valley, we get back our composure and drive on. We don’t get very far however before Joubert yells out, again, “Lions!” Could it really be our third lion sighting of the morning!?

Indeed, there obscured behind some twigs and branches, are a pride of 5 lions wrestling with a buffalo cow on the ground! Now the stampeding herd of buffaloes we saw half-a-minute ago makes perfect sense!

As the bellowing of the cow dies down, no longer to be heard above the sound of raindrops on the car’s roof, and her feverish kicking stops, it’s clear that the fight is all over. In the excitement it takes a while for me to figure out that if I drive past the scene we’d have a much clearer view of it looking back. Just as the feeding starts one of the younger lionesses gets up and walks off, presumably to collect the pride’s cubs to join the feast. While we wait almost an hour for her to return, she doesn’t, so the cubs must’ve been quite some distance away. In the meantime the sights and sounds of the lions tearing the buffalo cow open and apart is as bone-chilling as you can imagine.

And to think we’re only half-way through our day in the Pilanesberg!

If you’d like to follow along as we explore the Pilanesberg, a map may come in handy (for a large format version click here)

Scene where we saw the buffaloes and lions on Sefara Drive

If you need to catch up on our drive through the Pilanesberg National Park, you can read all the previous posts here.

To be continued tomorrow.

A day in Pilanesberg: Hour 4

Mankwe Dam, a large man-made impoundment that holds water throughout the year and that’s a veritable magnet for wildlife, is located in the heart of the Pilanesberg National Park. On its banks you’ll find the Mankwe Hide, very popular with photographers and recently rebuilt after being destroyed in a veld fire. That is where we are headed next.

Back in the hide’s parking area this southern masked weaver is enjoying a bath in a small puddle- as if he is too scared to go swimming in the big pool on the other side!

Almost immediately after driving out of the parking area at the hide, we come across a pair of lions – our second lion sighting of the day and less than 200 steps from where we were standing outside our vehicle just a few seconds ago! Luckily, being a mating pair, their attentions are focused on satisfying other base instincts than finding food. Our day just keeps getting better!

Leaving the lions to their honeymoon, we head north along Kgabo Drive and take a left into Tlou. Along the way we add further to our list of birds seen, including this rufous-naped lark singing its lungs out from a prominent perch.

Rufous-naped Lark

Just as we get to the junction of Tlou and Thuthlwa drives we find another brown hyena, walking quite purposefully away from an old elephant carcass with a large chunk of bone in its jaws. We follow alongside until it disappears into a thicket, its destination remaining a mystery to us but we like to think that it is headed to a den with hungry youngsters waiting.

If you’d like to follow along as we explore the Pilanesberg, a map may come in handy (for a large format version click here)

Mankwe Hide to Tlou Drive

If you need to catch up on our drive through the Pilanesberg National Park, you can read all the previous posts here.

To be continued tomorrow.

Pilanesberg for a day

Yesterday, Joubert and I slipped away for a day visit to the Pilanesberg National Park. We’ll soon be telling you all about our amazing day in the bushveld, but until then we’ll share this little teaser of what’s in store.

 

Waiting hours for a glimpse at a White Lion

White Lions are exceedingly rare and especially so in the wild. Several zoos, “safari parks” and circuses around the world house White Lions, but these are often horribly inbred. These lions are not albinos, instead being the result of a mating between two lions carrying a recessive gene for white (leucistic) fur instead of the usual tawny colouration. Naturally White Lions are only ever found, from time to time, in South Africa’s Lowveld, where the Kruger National Park and a few renowned private nature reserves are situated. As far as wild White Lions are concerned, at present, there are known to be two young white cubs in the same pride that roam around Orpen in western Kruger and the adjacent Timbavati reserve, and a single young male born to a pride near Satara and fairly wide-roaming since he and his brothers were ejected from their natal pride.

It is this latter individual that we came across on the 3rd of January 2020, the final full day of our Satara Summer. Having fairly often visited the Kruger National Park my entire life, it was always my, hitherto unfulfilled, wish to see a truly WILD White Lion, so you will appreciate just how excited we were at this opportunity! It was an exceedingly hot day, and on hot days lions are seldom very active. So we sat for hours in our vehicle in the blazing sun, waiting, hoping, that he might get up, and move around just a little, so that we can get more than just a glimpse. He obliged, for a minute or two only, to move from the large tree where he was lying with his three brothers to a smaller shrub a few meters away. That was it. He didn’t move again until we had to leave to get back to camp before the gates closed. But we were thrilled and grateful for the chance to see such an enigmatic animal.

My Mom is stronger than you!

While out driving one rainy afternoon near Satara in the Kruger National Park, we came upon a lonely and obviously terrified lion cub, running in the road and trying to hide in roadside bushes, all the while calling for his pride. We were still feeling sorry for the little one when suddenly his demeanor changed totally – he picked himself up and confidently started running past our car. It is then that we noticed his mother standing, and looking quite intimidating, behind the assembled vehicles, ready to attack anyone or anything that threatens her little one. When he reached her they both gave the human spectators a parting glance, joined the rest of the pride and confidently walked off into the bush. The encounter made a wonderful impression on all of us.

You don’t ALWAYS find lions behind EVERY bush, you know..?

When we visited in September, there appeared to be a convention of Lions around Lower Sabie Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park. Whether you were following the river in an easterly or westerly direction from camp, you would have been very unlucky not to encounter at least one pride of lions within the first 4 kilometers of your drive.

On one occasion we even saw two lions right in front of camp while we were taking an afternoon stroll on the lawns! They spooked a herd of fleet-footed impala, alerting us to their presence as well.

Finding Lions in Kruger is not always this easy. With the dry season now coming to an end, surface water is hard to come by, and the lions take advantage of this by ambushing herbivores coming to slake their thirst from the Sabie. We also found lions in other parts of the park while we were driving around, and in all instances they were close to or at a water source, lying in wait.

The lady that stops traffic

This lioness was using the bridge outside Lower Sabie in the Kruger National Park as her own personal catwalk, settling down to give her adoring fans some close up views of her beauty – and I was lucky to get a front-row seat!

But lions aren’t always such show-offs – sometimes they like to keep their distance, and other times they lie hidden in plain sight…

 

The King and Prime Minister of Imfolozi

This morning we spent some time with two magnificent male lions in the far western reaches of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

One of them was bruised and battered with battle scars all over his body. Obviously he’s the enforcer for the King; the light-maned male with the relatively unscathed hide and face.

Sadly, today was our final full day here at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. Tomorrow we only have the distance between here at Mpila Camp and the Memorial Gate to savour this pristine wilderness one last time before heading back to Pretoria.

 

Alone time with the King of Beasts

A week ago, on an early morning drive along the Sand River near Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, this magnificent male lion popped out of the thickets to patrol and mark his territory along the road.

After spending quite a bit of time with him as he walked at pace along the river road, mostly within arm’s length of the vehicle, another car arrived on the scene, and I drove off in order to allow them the thrill of some alone time with The King as well.

Kings of Addo

Two male lions waited for us next to the road as we were driving from Addo‘s new, soon to be opened Nyathi Camp early on Friday morning. We may only have spent a few minutes in their audience, but the experience will remain a thrilling memory forever.