During this lockdown, we have been incredibly blessed with an abundance of game visiting. Huge herds of ellies have frequented, splashing about in the river, taking mud baths and munching away on the reeds below. The waterbuck family has moved back, after being away for most of the summer. Large herds of impala, wildebeest, zebras, warthogs and giraffes have paid us visits. The impalas are becoming brave, and I’ve seen them on our side of the river already a few times, as well as kudus.
The hippos are moving around a lot more, trying to find deeper water, and the bulls are fighting often about new territory. I have seen one that is terribly injured from a bad scrap a few times recently.
The bush is turning to beautiful auburns and bronzes, the grass is drying out, and the leaves are falling from the trees. The early mornings and evenings have become crisper. I just love winter in the bush.
We have even been beyond blessed, with a couple of cheetah sightings (Friday Lockdown Visitors: An Afternoon With a Cheetah Mom & Her Cubs), and a leopard that paid us a visit during this lockdown (Today's Lockdown Visitor: The Elusive Leopard Shows Himself!). But, lions, which are just my absolute best, have been a bit scarce.
On both occasions, that we had the cheetahs here, I saw sub-adult male lions as well, but so briefly, and not very well. I have longed for them, as I am sure most of you know, if you’re following my social media pages :)
I often talk with the Kruger gate guards, and even they have said they haven’t seen them in a while. Although, we have all heard them almost every night, and they don’t sound too far off. But then I get my hopes up, spend most of the days outside, scanning the bushveld, unfortunately with no luck.
The hardest thing about lockdown has been not being able to just pop in to the park and see the lions, wherever they may be. And as a result, I have been wondering how the young princes of Crocodile Bridge are. Are they healthy, have they grown, are they alive?
Grampsy spoke with the section ranger a couple of days ago about something, and made sure he also asked about the lions (especially for me). He reported that the young males were very much alive and well, and that he sees them often around his home, the S25 and the S28.
It gave me hope that they would eventually come and visit, and that all I needed was a little patience.
Today, I didn’t even really take notice of what was happening out there. I went for my run, baked a lemon meringue pie, and then Gram invited me for tea on the deck.
I wasn’t even sitting down for a second, when I caught sight of a dagga buffalo bull in the riverbed. I looked little further down the riverbed with the binos, and to my absolute delight spotted a young male lion just enjoying the lovely winter sunshine on the sandbank, he was also keeping an eye on some impala and wildebeest that had come to drink.
They spotted him, and at first they stood very still, having a stare off with the young male, lying on the opposite riverbed to them, and then they began alarm calling, and bolted off in a flash.
The young male lay there for a little while longer, and then I watched him crossing through the river (and they say cats hate water). He began his way up the hill a little bit, found a little shady tree, and flopped down beneath it.
I knew he couldn’t be alone, and then I saw the flick of the tail just a couple of trees over from him, It was another young male. And when he eventually sat up, I recognized him – It was ‘Mo’ the one with the black tuft of mane. And he was absolutely beautiful. Their manes have thickened, and they are really starting to fill out now in size; Beautiful, young princes, future kings of Crocodile Bridge. And then to my surprise, I saw another tail flick behind him, and a head pop up. It was a third young male.
I was slightly overcome with emotion. Finally these young male lions, that we have watched grow over the last few years, have returned and are looking so healthy. Could it be them that I hear at night roaring? I have been told that they are very brave.
Mo came out from under the shady bush he was under, and lay down on the rocks with his head up, so I could get a better look at him. Wow, he is incredibly large. At first I thought he was staring at me, I felt tempted to wave and say, “hello, old friend”, but then I realized, that although he could see me, it was not me he was interested in, but the dagga buffalo boy in the river below me.
But, it was too hot and he was lazy to move, so he just lay there on his side. His massive paws over his body. Every now and then one of the young males would sit up, as if to check that the buffalo was still in the river.
A little ways up the river, towards Crocodile Bridge, some impala and the waterbuck family came down to the river for a drink. It was a beautiful day.
I spent the entire afternoon watching them, while they enjoyed the shady trees, and the winter sun. They didn’t move much.
Just as golden hour began, two elephant bulls strolled down through the reeds on our side of the river. I was thankful that they were on our side, or I’m sure they would’ve chased the lions away.
It was a magic scene, the buffalo on the sandbank just below the big red sun that was slowly disappearing beyond the horizon, the ellies grazing in the river just below us. I could smell their pungent earthy smell. And the three lions, lying on their backs with their paws in the air, like over-sized kittens.
Darkness began to creep in, and the lions began to blend in to the night. With the last orange and red blaze just above the horizon, the first evening star appeared, and was twinkling brightly in the evening sky.
I couldn’t see the ellies anymore, but I could hear them munching away on the reeds close to us, the rest of the nightly bush choir was in full swing. The lapwings, and the fork-tailed Drongo’s singing sweetly, the crickets chiming, the hippos chuckling, and then a flock of hadedas flew past, of course being the loudest of all.
I wonder if the lions may attempt to hunt that lonely dagga boy buffalo tonight, and if they’ll be here tomorrow when I wake…
But for now, I feel such happiness that the royalty finally paid us a visit, and I’m pleased to know that they haven’t forgotten about this area, that they so loved to visit almost everyday of last winter. I hope they roar tonight, so I can fall asleep to their sweet lullaby.