When we drove into the Rooiputs camping area the first thing we saw was a small tent tucked away in a thicket of trees and bushes. It belonged to the engineer working on the new road – a site he had occupied for more than a year. Apparently he chose this unconventional habitat in preference to proper digs at Twee Rivieren/Two Rivers and because of this he was very knowledgeable about the comings and goings of the lions in the Rooiputs area. He told us that Rooiputs was the best place in the Park to see lions and warned us that they came through the campsite at least three times a week. He spoke of a pride of thirteen lions in the vicinity.
We didn’t have to wait long before the deep roar of a lion really close by broke the silence of the night. The next morning Jon was up at first light and noticed lion paw prints in the road within a meter or so from where we were both camped.
We wondered at what stage of the night it had passed by – was it while we were asleep or when we were enjoying a braai outside the A-frame? Had we been sized up for dinner and found wanting? (Note: We always had a car parked near where we were sitting for quick refuge in case of a visit by lions)
Morning ablutions forgotten we dived into Jon’s car and headed down the short track to the Rooiputs waterhole. Lions can be quite difficult to spot as they blend into the bushveld scenery and at first we didn’t see anything. Luckily campers from a nearby site pointed out the lone lioness on a dune quite near the waterhole.
Our delight at seeing her magnified when we heard a loud roar and she jumped up and made her way to greet a magnificent male lion accompanied by three other lionesses. She was obviously expecting them and they had a joyful reunion.
We couldn’t believe our luck when one of the females later left the group and made her way a short distance along the road in front of us to greet yet another male lion.
Now there were six of them. We later learned that the Park rangers kept tabs on these males and they were named Moertoe and Mfaas – Moertoe being the younger male who now headed the pride. Old Mfaas, although respected, kept his distance from the pride when they were cooling off in the heat of the day.
The lions spent the rest of the day lying under trees, moving only to follow the shade as the sun rose in the sky. The jackals gave them a wide berth as they came cautiously down to drink. One lone springbok made off at great speed when one of the lionesses stood up and did a small charge, but she obviously wasn’t too keen on hunting as she quickly flopped down to the ground again.
What a magnificent lion sighting. Any other animal activity on offer that day would pale into insignificance after such a display.