Today in Kruger Paradise: Surrounded by Lions
I had plans for my day today, but with Kruger reopening this week, and with my geographical location: Right at Crocodile Bridge Gate, the temptation of going in when there is a good sighting is hard to resist. Yesterday afternoon it was wild dogs next to the road, where I spent a few blissful hours, but today, was even more special, if that’s even possible.
I was busy catching up on emails this morning at about 7am, when my friend called me and told me that 7 sub-adult male lions had killed a giraffe right next to the road on the S25, and it was only 6.2km’s from Hippo Pools, so for me, it was so close.
In my running gear, hair unbrushed, and half asleep, I packed my car and headed off.
It was a lovely morning, as the frosty air blew through my car, the winter sunshine was warm and welcoming, and I could hear grey loeries, spurfowls and ring-necked doves chattering and singing sweetly, as I drove along the winding dirt road.
In the distance, I saw a couple of hyenas in the road, so I knew I was getting close, and then a breeding herd of ellies stepped out in to the road, clearly not very happy about the hyenas. They started marching towards me, and I began to reverse for quite a ways until eventually they veered off the road, and in to the thick bush.
I stopped and looked at the hyenas, which were now next to the road, they had their typical cowardly expressions upon their faces. I love them, personally. Fascinating animals.
As I continued along just a bit down the hill, I caught sight of the dead giraffe next to the road, and two young male lions enjoying their morning breakfast tremendously. What a sight, and there was only one other car there. I turned off my engine, and got comfy. A third young male, strolled across the road and in to the bushes on the other side, where I lost sight of him.
It was tough to see the giraffe, as it was a fresh kill and they hadn’t eaten too much, and I could clearly see that she had been carrying, which of course broke my heart. Nature can be cruel, I know… but, it’s “ The Circle of Life.”
The hyenas weren’t lurking far off, and I could hear other lions roaring softly in the distance. As the morning progressed the roars became louder.
One young male, and a lioness were feeding on the carcass, when all of a sudden two incredibly large fully grown male lions came running out of nowhere (well at least I wasn’t expecting them), right past my car, and chased away the other lions. They immediately started feeding; the young male ran in to the thick bush.
The young lioness was feeding again, one of the big males smacked her around a bit, and then they continued feeding.
One of the big males then strolled off in to the bushes, I heard some roaring and grunting, and then the other male went charging off in to the bushes too. There was a large commotion, as a third large male joined, the other young males went running off, and I couldn’t see too much, as it was all happening in the thicker bush, but the sounds and the dust coming from there were quite the sight to behold. I managed to catch the entire scene on a live video (Here is the link: The Big Males have arrived)
Its hard to describe how I felt in that moment, it was absolutely thrilling, as I felt the earth vibrate underneath me. My heart was racing, and my hands were trembling. Excitement, yes, but I think a bit of fear too. They have such power, such strength.
The big males had the most impressive manes; two had very dark manes while the third was more blonde. I was completely awe-struck. I had been marveling at the size of the young males, but when these three showed up, I was in total shock.
The thing is, as I sit here and type this, I realise, I never saw the third big male come to feed again, and late this afternoon my grandparents who also came to see the sighting, had continued along the S25, where they found a big black -maned male. So, now I wonder, if it was the third one that I saw this morning? I also wonder, why he didn’t stick around.
Perhaps the big males had been fighting with him, and not with the young males?
Maybe someone else saw the third one again, and can tell me?
The poor lioness had run over the road and come to sit next to my car (she was obviously like, 'I’ll leave all these dominant males to battle, and I’ll depart the scene')…
And then a young male came to feed, "wow, he’s brave", I thought to myself. Shortly after, another young male returned to the carcass, and then the big males returned for brunch as well, and all seemed right in the world. This was clearly their offspring’s, or some of them at least.
Although there was one young male, whom they didn’t seem to fond of, that lay on the other side of the road. Perhaps he had already been kicked out of the pride?
The vultures were perched in the branches above, and the hyenas were still lurking around, but none of them dared take a chance with the big males around.
I spent a wonderful morning with them, and had one young male RIGHT next to my car; he even lay there for a while. I closed my window at this point, just to be on the safe side, but I examined him closely. His pretty pink nose, his gigantic paws, his little Mohawk, the spots on this legs, which they still have when they are sub-adults.
I absolutely love lions, but I have a very soft spot for the young males. Maybe it’s because we had six around our house over the last few years, that I’ve watched grow, or maybe it’s because I know how tough young males have it, but either way, they just melt my heart.
When lunchtime approached I decided to pop home to freshen up (time had run away with me). It was difficult to leave, because I didn’t want to miss a thing.
Later in the afternoon, I returned, and much more of the giraffe had been devoured. The lions were scattered all around; some to my left, some to my right, some behind me. Their beautiful rust-coloured eyes, their most prominent features, became even more mesmerizing as golden hour was upon us. Especially when they would look up at the vultures flying above. They carry such expression in their eyes.
I knew it wouldn’t be long before they would head back to the carcass, to protect whatever was left. Gradually some of the lions came out from their slumber and began feeding again. One of the big males lay nearby, keeping a watchful eye. Once or twice the vultures got too close and the young males would charge, and scare them off.
The big male eventually got up and strolled along till he was next to my car before flopping down again. I felt my heart racing and my hands trembling, again. They have quite the effect.
In that moment, I can’t explain the delight and joy that I felt, to be surrounded by lions, in this piece of Kruger paradise. Everywhere I looked, there were lions! The sun slowly disappeared behind the trees on the hill, and I knew that was my que. If I lingered any longer I’d be late for the gate, but it was so hard to leave...
As I reversed, I took one more mental photo of the magical scene in front of me, such beautiful royalty. Soon they’d be able to go about their nightly activities, without any humans watching, and I wondered if they’d be there tomorrow morning… Maybe I’ll have to go and find out ;)