With last week Monday, bringing about level 3, life is beginning to feel a lot more normal. Toni and I took a trip to Nelspruit, to do some shopping, and although it felt good to have a bit more freedom, leaving home made me feel like I had a serious case of FOMO (Fear of missing out). With winter in full swing now, the bush is terribly exciting, and I don’t really want to miss a moment here.
I know that as the veld gets drier, huge herds of game like zebras, impalas, giraffes and many buffalo, are moving through here for water, and this will bring the predators. Lions especially.
I realise how spoilt we were with lions here almost every day of last winter, and I have made peace with the fact that this year may not be as good, because of all the rain we’ve had.
A few days ago, we were lucky to see that beautiful male leopard here again, right in front of us, on some rocks just above the river. Someone on the neighbouring farm also reported seeing him in the riverbed, so this tells me that he has definitely become somewhat of a resident around here. But, we’ll see if he sticks around, once Kruger reopens tomorrow, and there is a lot more traffic over the Crocodile Bridge.
When we finally drove through our gate this afternoon after our trip to Nelspruit , I can’t explain the relief I felt to be home.
Just as I pulled up in front of our house, Gramps called me on my phone. “Are you interested in seeing a lion,” he said? “Really, is there one here?,” I said in disbelief and absolutely delighted, “I’ll be there now”.
I didn’t even unpack, I just grabbed my binos and my camera and headed for the deck. As I got there Gram and Gramps pointed to him. He had just come from around the river bend and began walking to the usual spot where the boys like to lie.
He lay there for quite a while, looking rather regal, and then got up, walked a little ways, flopped down, and rolled around with his giant paws in the air, like a big kitten.
Five beautiful elephant bulls were grazing in the reeds just below us, and a tower of giraffes were standing in the road just above Crocodile Bridge. One lonely warthog was strolling down the hill. Make no mistake; the young prince saw everything that was going on around him. I wondered if he’d attempt to hunt the warthog, which is no doubt one of these boys’ favourite fares, but he didn’t.
He walked all the way across the hill in front of us, marking his territory as he went, until eventually he came to lie on the rocks, in front of our house. They love to lie on those rocks in the winter; I think they are warm from the sun. It makes me think of, “Out of Africa.”
With him so near to us now, I could get a better look at him. It was ‘Pretty Eyes’, he is so easy to identify, because he has a very distinctive mark on the right side of his nose. It’s a marking that almost makes a straight line. If you’re very close to him, you’ll also notice that he has a flack in his right eye. He is an incredibly beautiful young prince. They are all beautiful, but he is in particular, very handsome, I've always thought that of him. It was so special for me to see his familiar face. I have a photo of him looking up with his big, beautiful eyes which I have put on to canvas in my living room, he was younger then.
Well as you may have guessed, I spent the whole afternoon with him. When the sun became too bright and warm, he began to move even closer to Crocodile Bridge, he found a soft, grassy spot and fell in to a deep sleep.
‘Pretty eyes’ is usually seen with his brother, who has a cute little black tuft of mane on the top of his head. Gramps nicknamed him, Mo, which I think is very fitting. But he was nowhere to be seen, or so we thought…
Later, we heard from a Sanparks employee who was at the gate, that she'd seen one lion cross the road. It’s highly likely that, that was Mo, and I missed him completely because I was so focused on his brother.
I love a good sunset, but on the days that the royalty visit, I always wish for a few extra hours of daylight. Magic hour was upon us, and the golden light danced off the young princes mane, and off the pinnacles of the grass and shrubs that were around him. He looked even more golden in the light if that was even possible. A real life Simba.
Another herd of elephants slowly made their way through the reeds, as the sun began to vanish from sight, only with a thin, firey orange blaze left across the horizon. (They must still be here this evening, as I write this, as I can hear their tummies softly rumbling as they contact call to each other.)
The hippos were spouting water, and popping their heads out not far off, one emerged out of the water and began heading in the direction of the young prince. I wasn’t convinced that the hippo would actually walk past the lion, but to my astonishment, it did. The young prince simply lifted his head, had a look at the giant hippo, that was strolling past and then he flopped down again.
It was the most wonderful welcome home, and a very happy Sunday. Home, sweet, home, there’s no place like it.
And on that note, our precious Kruger reopens tomorrow for self-drives, and I can’t even begin to express my excitement (Even though I had my lion fix today). It still feels like the night before Christmas ;)
But, I feel like today was extra special because I got to enjoy the last day of magic and tranquility of Kruger, with no other traffic or people around, which I am not sure I'll ever get to experience again in my lifetime.