Yesterday our family went to watch the Lion King to celebrate Grampsy’s birthday. It was incredible, and we loved every moment. I cried the whole movie through.
With all this hype around the Lion King, I thought it only fitting that I write a blog about our very own Lion King entertainment that has been going on here at Ellie Walk (Crocodile Bridge, Kruger National Park) the last week and a half.
We have had the royalty here almost every single day, and of course this has caused much excitement among our guests and us. In fact, on some days, I moved my entire office outside, so I didn’t miss a moment with them.
The first day that they arrived, there were 11 of them, and they were so graceful and regal lying on the rocks just in front of us. They were enjoying the warmth of the rocks and the sunshine, with the cool, wintery breeze that was blowing in.
My cats have this thing that they do, when they lie in the sunshine and lift their face toward the sky, as the wind blows through their fur; Lions do this too. I am not actually sure why they do this, but I like to think that it’s because they are enjoying these marvellous wintery days as much as I am.
My brother Darryl, was on leave at the time from Imbali Safari Lodge in Kruger, and him and I were sat on the deck watching them, we spent a couple of hours with them and I was waiting for the sun to disappear , so they would become active and perhaps catch themselves some dinner.
I looked up on to horizon and saw a breeding herd of ellies making their way across the hill at quite a speed, now I have mentioned in my previous blog, The Elephants of Elephant Walk, that I once saw an elephant bull come down the hill and chase the lions away, while they were innocently lying beneath the trees. But never in my wildest dreams, did I think I’d see that again, and this time with an entire herd.
Before the herd even reached them, the poor lions got up and dashed in to the reeds, only after they were hiding did the elephants begin to throw a tantrum, trumpeting and kicking up dust as they went .The elephants passed where they were and then stood around at attention, trying to see where the lions had gone too.
(Below is a video I took, I must apologise for the poor quality, I filmed it in to the sun with a camera... but still, it was too amazing not too share :) )
Once they were satisfied that the lions would stay hidden and wouldn’t bother them, they continued over the road and in to the bushes on the other side.
In fact, come to think of it… I haven’t seen elephants here since…
I was rather upset with the elephants for being such bullies and chasing my royal visitors off, but then I suppose they were only trying to protect their young. As any mother would.
A little while later the two sub-adult males came out and lay on the grass just above the reeds as the sun was setting, and then darkness set in and we couldn’t see them anymore.
But we sure could hear them…
I have to share this funny (albeit embarrassing) story with you. That night I was lying in bed reading, it must’ve been about 10pm. Toni had a long day and was fast asleep. All of sudden I heard a man scream. A long drawn out painful scream, it was so loud that it echoed across the whole valley.
I was so horrified, and it was so eerie that I jumped out of bed and woke Toni as I ran to the door and opened it, listening. The screaming continued, and then silence. Complete silence.
“Oh my gosh, Toni, what was that? That man sounded like he was in agony. What do you think happened? Where did that noise come from? He sounded like he got attacked by a lion”, I said.
“I don’t know, beautiful, probably from the farm next door”, he replied, half asleep.” Don’t worry about it, it’s probably nothing.” He rolled over and went back to bed.
But I couldn’t sleep, that scream of terror played over and over in my head. All I kept thinking was of my lion sighting earlier that day. Perhaps some one had walked in to the pride?
I called my brother who was sleeping in our unit 8 for the night. He had also been rather disturbed by the screams, and although he didn’t really want to freak me out more, he agreed that it sounded as if something awful had happened.
The next morning, we were up at the crack of dawn, as we were going in to the Kruger for a picnic with my grandparents, and I must admit I was shattered. I didn’t sleep much, and when I did, I had some pretty horrific nightmares. Think along the lines of Ghost in the Darkness...
As we drove in at the gate, I decided to ask the gate guard if he had heard the screams and what happened.
“Oh, the screaming, last night?”, he said with a giant grin on his face “that was me, I was watching the Bafana Bafana game, and they lost to Nigeria”
Well… I felt like an idiot, but a relieved idiot, nonetheless. :)
The next afternoon our pride was back and were lazing on the other side of the river, and the following morning they were right in front of the lodge on our side chasing impalas through the reeds.
One of our guests actually saw the big female (who I like to think is the lioness in charge) walk right next to our fence. She saw our guest, and stared at her with those piercing eyes, and the lady told us that she then slowly took a few steps back. I would’ve done the same.
It’s the most incredible feeling to know they are so close to us all the time. It Brings me so much excitement and joy to know that we have wild lions as neighbours.
I came out early the next day for my morning coffee and saw 5 lions just on the other side of the river, on their rocks again, and a young sub adult male came out the reeds on our side and crossed the river to be with this pride.
These cats are not as afraid of the water as one might think.
They had spent the night in the reeds below us, and I had known it because they had been so vocal during the night that I struggled to sleep.
There was a waterbuck calf on a sandbank in the river, and the pride had their eyes on it, I was so worried that they may try and catch it. It was on full alert prancing around, and the rest of its little family were at the top of the hill. I could see that the waterbuck family desperately wanted to get to their baby but were not willing to take the risk of walking past the lions.
Waterbuck are not a lion’s favoured fare though, and there is a theory that they don’t taste too good, as their skin produces an oily secretion which gives the meat a bad taste. Perhaps it’s just that they tend to run in to water when being stalked, and predators (like cats) don’t love water all that much… who really knows?
I am pleased to report that the baby survived, and the lions moved off in to the bush. I watched as the pride walked straight past a herd of impala, some wildebeest and a few warthogs. A few ran away but the majority just stood and watched as the royalty came past.
It was rather fascinating to me that they stood just meters from them and didn’t bolt off. How do they know that predators aren’t hungry or in hunting mode?
That afternoon they were back again, and just after the sun had set; I saw them making their way over the Crocodile Bridge to our side. We hopped in the car and drove to Unit 1 at the bottom of the property and shined our torch as they came over. It was terribly exciting as our guests came out to watch them too.
The following night the same thing happened as they crossed over again, this time Grammy, Gramps and I all went down. It was a magic moment; the moon was at its fullest and had risen just enough to give us natural light. The moonlight reflected off of the river and I was in awe, the lions were even more royal and beautiful under the moonlight. They walked all the way across and then jumped down on to the sandy banks below and in to the darkness.
That night they roared so loudly that I could feel the vibrations through my bed. It’s such a beautiful, strong pride and these young sub adult males are so regal and majestic. My wish is that they continue to grow in to strong males. Kings.
In the days after we had lions here almost every day. On one occasion three young females came running past at a great speed. They looked terrified, they were thin and looked hungry... I'm not sure if they were part of the Vurhami pride or not.
With all the fuss over the Lion King, I know that lions are “trending”, and people want to see “Simba” in real life…
We are so incredibly lucky, that we have this beautiful pride around here almost every day, and I know that it is a blessing. But the greatest blessing is that this pride is wild and free.
I just want to reach out to each and every one of you who take the time to read my blogs and say… that if you want to see Simba, please come to the Kruger National Park, or any other reserve or national park to see him in his natural habitat, wild and free.
See him in the wild, see him free, see him with his pride, see him hunt. See him lift his face to the sky and enjoy the sunshine and wind through his handsome mane. Listen to his powerful roar, the roar of royalty...
But please, please, please do not go see him in captivity. Do not go pet the cute lion cubs, do not go walk with the “pride”. There is a bigger picture here. A really dark, twisted, horrific story of what is happening to these lions. A side that you may not know you are supporting by doing these activities. These lions are all involved in the Canned Lion Hunting and Lion Bone Trade of South Africa.
For more info please feel free to reach out to me, or visit the Blood Lions website.
Blood Lions exposes the exploitation related to unethical and insidious practices associated with wildlife interactive tourism, including cub petting and walking with lions: