Tag Archives: Lion

Some days are diamonds

Have you ever had one of those days when just about everything goes wrong?  I’m sure you have.  How about one when absolutely everything goes right?  We recently had a diamond day in Kruger National Park.  We visit parks often and this has to have been our best time ever anywhere.  Let me tell you about it.

Lion Pride KNP

We left our campsite at Satara, planning to make our way slowly to Lower Sabie.  We hadn’t driven far when we saw a pride of ten lions in the bush next to the road.

Lion Pride KNP

The left the grassy area and walked along the road in front of us for about two kilometers.

Lion Pride KNP

Apart from seeing so many lions at one time, we were delighted to watch the young cubs playing games with each other as their parents walked purposefully ahead.  There were about six cubs of various ages, three older lionesses and one male lion.  What a sight that was.  Our best ever close up sightings of so many of these beautiful animals.

Male Leopard KNP

Feeling like things couldn’t get much better than this, we continued driving towards Lower Sabie.  It wasn’t long before we came across a number of parked cars and realized that the folks were watching something special.  This time it was a magnificent male leopard walking beside the road.

Male Leopard KNP

I turned our car around so that Rob could take photos and the leopard obliged by walking next to us and then sitting down at the side of the road.

Male Leopard KNP

What a sight he was.  We were absolutely blown away by this incredible animal.

When the leopard eventually disappeared into the bush, we happily continued on our drive.  Our next bonus was another sighting of lions, a male and female.  Once again we were in the perfect position for photos and we made the most of our special time with them.

Lioness KNP Lion  KNP

At the Mafagalamba Dam, close to the Tshokwane picnic area, we spotted a mother cheetah with three cubs.  She left her cubs briefly to drink at the dam.

Cheetah mother  KNP

Whilst there she spotted an impala and immediately gave chase.  We held our breath thinking that we would see a kill, but the impala managed to escape and the cheetah made her way back to her cubs.

Cheetah cubs  KNP

With that, a lioness appeared and saw an opportunity to have a cheetah cub for a meal.  The cheetah hastily departed with her three cubs.  Here was another chance for us to watch a chase!

Lioness KNP

There was a flurry of activity in a bush as the lioness caught up with them.  Unfortunately by then it was too far away for us to see what happened – we can only hope that the cubs escaped safely and that the mother took on the lioness.  We will never know the outcome, but our day was getting better and better!

By this time it was almost sundown and we were making our way back to our campsite, when we came across a smallish bird sitting in the road.  On closer inspection it turned out to be a Harlequin Quail – a lifer for us.

Harlequin Quail  KNP

I was concerned that it would be run over by a passing car, so I opened my window and flapped a towel near it.  The quail flew off into the safety of the bush.  Our day was over and it will be etched into our memories as the most amazing one ever in any game reserve.  We consider ourselves extremely lucky to have been witness to the best that the bush could offer in a single day.

Elephants and Idiots

I don’t know about you, but I think the world is going a bit loopy at the moment.  Perhaps I should check out the phase of the moon because it’s usually the cause of people acting like lunatics.  I don’t often stand on a soap box and moan about the stupidity of some people, but when ignorant folks do things that directly harm animals and nature, then I feel strongly about it.

I blogged recently about lion hunting in South Africa because a lady visitor from America came here and bragged about shooting a magnificent lion for fun.  This week a British couple takes centre stage for their destruction of another of our Big Five animals, this time a beautiful bull elephant in Kruger National Park.  Admittedly they didn’t physically shoot the animal, but they were directly responsible for its death by not showing due respect.

Making at splash

As can be seen in the SkyNews video footage of their encounter with the elephant, the visitors were given a warning by the elephant when it turned to face them with its ears flapping.  This was a clear indication that the animal was not happy and it would be a good idea for them to remove themselves from the situation, which they had every opportunity to do.  They stayed put, however, and waited until seconds before the attack to attempt to move their car.  This only incensed the elephant more and they were shown in a no-nonsense manner what an angry elephant does when it rolled their car a number of times.  Fortunately they weren’t killed, but that can’t be said for the poor elephant as rangers shot it shortly afterwards for its perfectly normal behaviour when feeling threatened or annoyed.

I’m not saying that the elephant was threatened, but they react when humans come too close for comfort and their reaction is normal for an animal in the bush.  How absurd that it has to be shot for ambling innocently through its own bushveld territory to appease the tourist industry and future business for Kruger National Park.  I’m sorry, but this should never have happened.  Perhaps it’s a lesson for the authorities at Kruger to make foreigners watch the video upon entering the Park, or give them a pamphlet to read and sign so that the animals don’t need to be put down when humans do silly things in parks.

And down under we have our second lunatic of the week – an Australian man who jumped into the sea in a budgie cage to look at a great white shark.  The shark, that had been caught by fishermen and was able to swim alongside the boat, was probably in pain and enraged when it saw the human in its environment, and it came in for an attack.  Did the diver expect to be welcomed by the shark and left alone, and did he think that a flimsy budgie cage was any measure against the powerful jaws of a great white shark?

In South Africa people can view great white sharks from a heavily reinforced cage that is lowered into the water, but the sharks that are viewed are not captured and injured first and the people can do this in relative safety.

When are we going to learn to leave animals alone and let them live in peace without being harassed by humans?  Wild animals are just that – wild animals – and that is their beauty.  Why do we have to go into their domains and ruin everything for them and for all the other nature lovers who just want to enjoy God’s creatures in their natural environment?  Come on humans, we are supposed to be the one’s with brains and intelligence!

The ladykiller and the lion

I’ve been following the Melissa Bachman lion killing debate with great interest.  As a nature lover I’m heartened to see the outcry that her callous behaviour has spawned.  I guess it would be naive to think that hunting doesn’t take place, but I think that the shock value of the Bachman incident is twofold – one, that she’s a woman and two, that she dared to brag about hunting one of South Africa’s Big Five animals.

A young male lion

South African women tend to leave the more robust sports to our men folk and it really doesn’t sit easy on our minds to see a woman sporting a hunting rifle and grinning from ear to ear because she has just shot a magnificent, defenceless lion.  I know that women have fought long and hard for equal rights in the world arena, and I appreciate their efforts on our behalf, but somehow as nurturers of the world, hunting just doesn’t seem like one of those jobs that women should share with men unless it’s an absolute necessity.  If women start hardening their hearts and becoming cold blooded killers of animals, who will take over from us as nurturers and carers?  And what is the next step from killing animals – killing humans?

Lion cub Botswana

And talking of equal rights,  why didn’t she challenge him without a gun in her hands?  What a shame she chose the cowardly way of taking him on.  Anyone who has camped in the wilds in Africa can tell you of the thrill of living amongst wild lions.  To lie in a tent and hear the deep roar of a male lion nearby is about one of the most thrilling sounds in the world.  I guess for Ms Bachman the sound of a gunshot does more for her than listening to an animal calling to its mate.  Shame on her!

Kalahari red-maned lion

It’s a sad indictment of our society if this awful act was a publicity stunt because she’s a TV presenter (Michelle hosts “Deadly Passion”).  If people need to boost TV show ratings or their image by killing proud animals it doesn’t say much for the rest of the world if we continue to watch these shows and stroke their inflated egos.

Magnificent beast

Our rhinos are being poached into extinction in this country so it won’t be too long before we are left with the Big Five minus one!  If people are going to start on our lions as well, then they are going to have to face the wrath of South Africans.  Thank you to all those people around the world who signed petitions (hell yes, I did too!) and who voiced their anger at this woman.  It was a debate that I wish hadn’t needed to be brought to light, but if it raised the consciousness of people’s inhumanity to dwindling populations of animals on our planet, then our poor brave lion’s death was not in vain.

Ms Bachman’s post on Twitter alongside her photo – “An incredible day hunting in South Africa!  Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion … what a hunt!” – elicited a magnificent retort from Ricky Gervais : “Spot the typo!”

Well said Ricky!  My sentiments exactly.

Passarge Valley in the Central Kalahari Park

Days 6-8 – Piper Pan to Passage Valley 80kms

Jon drove in front for the first part of our trip to Passarge Valley as he and Hillary knew the way. The road was sandy in parts, but generally the surface was like hard clay and it was a very pleasant drive. We stopped often to photograph birds and look at tracks on the road.  Jon and Hillary both trained as Field Guides and Hillary, in particular, is something of an expert on animal tracks. It was interesting to have their input on fauna and flora that we didn’t know about and they in turn appreciated our knowledge of birds, so our relationship worked extremely well.

Just before the turn off to Tau Pan, Jon stopped to let us take the lead. At Piper Pan, on one of our many game drives, we had laughingly given rand values for each unusual animal that anyone spotted. For example, whoever saw a lion first would be paid R20,00 by each person in the party, R20,00 for a leopard and R15,00 for a cheetah. We were delighted when we had just taken up the lead on the way to Passarge and I spotted a big lion asleep under a Catophractes bush right next to the road. At last! I was in the money!

Lion on the way to Passarge

He didn’t let our ooh’s and aaah’s disturb him at all and merely lazily opened one eye to look at us before going back to sleep. Seeing this enormous lion actually gave me quite a laugh because whenever we stopped, Jon would jump out of his car, binoculars in hand, and come running up to us to find out what we had seen. Imagine if he was at Rob’s window and we pointed out a lion five meters behind him! The thought gave us the giggles for minutes afterwards. In all other game reserves we’ve been in, one isn’t allowed out of one’s car for this very reason. The Botswana game reserves are quite different as most campsites are not fenced off at all. One just has to be extremely careful and aware of the danger.

The trip to Passarge is only about 80 kms so we took our time and enjoyed the many sights. We passed a number of small pans on the way, some with little islands of trees in the middle of them. Game would often gather around the trees for shade and it appeared that there were more animals in this area than at Piper Pan. We came across a group of about fifteen giraffes quite near Passarge and when we stopped to photograph them they all turned and stared at us curiously. They looked perfect in this setting and we loved watching them amble gracefully from tree to tree.

Giraffes at Passarge Valley

Our campsite at Passarge Valley was an absolute treat. Situated on a slight elevation, it overlooked the pan and an island of trees. Once again we saw lots of giraffe and springbok. We were heartened by this, because lion and other predators only come to an area if there is an abundance of food. It certainly looked promising. There were no other campsites around so we knew we’d have the place all to ourselves. Passarge turned out to be our favourite spot on the whole trip. Not only was it in a beautiful situation, but we were blessed with our game viewing.

Campsite at Passarge

We left our camp early the next morning and headed back on the road towards Piper Pan. I was overjoyed when I spotted a male lion in the valley ahead and I urged Rob to speed up to where he was. On arrival we saw not one, but a pride of five lions at a kill that must have just happened. Luckily for us they were feasting on a gemsbok not two metres from the road, so we were able to take up a position right next to them and watch them for hours. What a magnificent spectacle and we had it all to ourselves!

The pride consisted of an adult male and three female lionesses, as well as a young cub of indeterminate sex, who had the cutest little face imaginable. We sat enthralled as they tucked into their meal, all the while encircled by at least six agitated black-backed jackals who were hoping to catch a piece of the action. The pride gorged themselves on all the delicacies that a carcass contains – we watched as they ate the liver, the tripe and the innards.

Eventually, completely stuffed and with faces painted with blood, they made their way across the road in front of us to sit replete under a thorn tree. They left one young lioness with the task of carrying what was left of the carcass to a safe spot under another nearby tree. Rob and I took dozens of photos as this spectacle unfolded before us, amazed at what we were seeing. Once the carcass was removed, one very nervous jackal rushed up and picked up the remains of the stomach, only to be chased by the rest of the pack who also wanted his prize. The young lioness had her work cut out guarding the carcass from the jackals and the vultures that circled overhead. Eventually she pulled it right into the bush and lay next to it, defying anyone to come near her.

Having this incredible sighting of a lion feed, anything else we saw would have to be an anti-climax. We headed back to camp for the rest of the day, planning to return to the site later on to see if the pride was still there. By now my camera batteries were flat and Jon’s fridge battery was also dying, so Rob started the generator and we hitched up everything that needed recharging. The noise disturbed the ambiance somewhat, but at this stage recharging batteries was more of a priority than enjoying the silence of the bushveld!

Our camping fridges did a marvelous job and at no time did we ever have to suffer warm beers!. By deep freezing our meat beforehand, we were able to turn the fridges right down and keep them as freezers for at least three or four days into the trip. This enabled us to have gourmet meals the whole holiday. John loves cooking so he made us a scrumptious roast chicken and roast potatoes in his flat bottomed cast iron pot. When we weren’t having braais we were able to have paella, oxtail, lamb knuckle stew and even delicious campfire bread. “You have to eat the bread hot tonight,” Hillary said as she pulled the loaf out of the pot. “If we leave it until tomorrow morning you can use it as a stone for a catapult.” I had frozen three loaves of sliced bread which lasted us until we got to Maun, so we were able to have toast for breakfast every day. On one cool evening at Passarge we feasted on jaffles, washed down with gluwein. What a combination!

At about four p.m. we headed back to where we’d left the lions and were surprised and somewhat disappointed to see two vehicles parked watching them sitting under their thorn tree. Fortunately, the tourists didn’t stay long as they obviously had some distance to cover to get to their campsite, so once again we were left alone with ‘our lions’. The one female was lying asleep on her back with her legs in the air – her bloated belly pulled tight as a drum from what she had eaten earlier. The male lion stared at us as if to say “Haven’t you seen enough of me today?” and our cheeky little lion looked sleepily at us from behind his dad. There was no sign of the carcass or the jackals.

We eventually tore ourselves away from this special scene and headed back in the direction of our camp. As it was still quite light we drove further down the valley. By now I was driving and Jon and Rob were sitting on the roof of the car, beers in hand, directing operations from their lofty positions.

Rob and Jon game viewing                             Bat-eared fox

“Stop!” they shouted when they spotted two bat-eared foxes and a jackal. We also came across a Kori Bustard in the long grass that Rob wanted to photograph in flight. For this I had to walk towards the big bird so that Rob could capture it the moment it took to the air. With my muscles still in spasm I hobbled over to it and there were cries of delight as it flew off. This was to be the first of a number of attempts over the next few days to get a decent flying shot of a Kori Bustard.

Jane making a Kori Bustard fly

Later on we headed back in the direction of the lions to see if they were still there. It was getting dark so Rob and I both shone spotlights into the veld on either side of the car as we drove along and Jon was also scanning the veld. Suddenly I saw two cheetahs walking along the road in front of us. This was amazing as it was the first time I’ve seen cheetahs in the wild. We managed to get quite close to them before they headed off into the grass and disappeared.  Oh, and I had earned some more money for my good spotting! What was it – R20,00 for a cheetah?

The lion family was still sitting under their thorn tree, but as it was getting quite late we decided to head back to the camp. It had been the most exciting day of game viewing ever and I was sure I would be too pumped up to sleep that night. The Kalahari had certainly shared some if it’s glory with us and we were ever so grateful to have been so blessed that day.

TripsPiper Pan in the Central Kalahari Park | Mankwe and Savute