The last two weeks have been scarce with regards to viewings of the Matimba male lions as they have been spending most of their time east of our boundary. The Mhangeni breakaway pride currently have very small cubs and when the Majingilane coalition moved into the core of the Matimba territory recently, this pride headed east in order to protect the youngsters, which we believe are not fathered by the Majingilane. The Matimba males went with them and have been there fairly consistently ever since, barring one or two occasions. Just a few days ago, one Matimba male was seen mating with the tailless Tsalala lioness, which is hugely exciting news. With the Tsalala original pride and breakaway pride now in very close proximity to each other and this mating behaviour happening, we’re wondering what the future holds for the pride. Could they re-join permanently? We’ll be sure to give you more details regarding their movements in the near future.

For now though let’s stick to a story that arose during a morning spent tracking the Matimba lions. For me it’s one that has really clarified how to avoid falling into a negative mindset when tracking… I think it’s a lesson that could help us all to get better at finding what we’re looking for.


We were following the tracks of the two male lions as they meandered through some diverse terrain along the edges of the Sand River and its adjacent clearings. About twenty minutes into the tracking effort, we lost sight of the pug marks in the sand as the substrate hardened. What I typically feel in these sorts of situations is a rapidly rising sense of irritation, I start to berate myself for not finding the process easy, tend to harden my gaze and stomp around in a huff trying to spot the next track. At this point I normally trample any subtle clue in my vicinity, turn on my heel and head for the vehicle, cursing myself for having failed dismally. What I’ve started to realise though is that this really doesn’t do anyone any good and since I’ve expanded my definition of tracking, I’m finding so much more than I used to and having a lot more fun along the way.


This new way of thinking involves exploration and fluidity, a non-attachment to the outcome of finding and a sort of going with what is. You may be quivering in horror as you read this. How on earth do you find something you’re looking for if you don’t doggedly hunt it down? Well you can commit to the doggedness but let’s be honest, this sort of forcing is likely to be far more stressful and your tunnel vision will mean you’ll probably miss a multitude of amazing things along the way.

Mike Tracking

Crazily enough, what I’m finding is that the more you wander, become aware of all the elements going on around you and allow what wants to happen, happen, you end up not only finding the thing you were seeking but so much more. And the ride is way better.


“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper” – W.B Yeats.


Now I think this sort of tracking I’m referring to is something that our master trackers do here anyway and it’s an aspect I’m maybe only starting to truly appreciate. But what it entails is grasping the entirety of what is happening around you, accepting the fact that you may lose tracks, opening yourself up to the possibility of other clues and simply just being ok with the moment (even when you’re doing a terrible job of ‘tracking’). I find that as you slow down and soften your focus, you actually end up seeing and noticing more because you’re in the flow of things and you’re listening to what wants to happen as opposed to trying to force a particular outcome.


So the other day I chose to take a different tack… I took a deep breath, the tracking team quietly re-grouped where we’d last seen the tracks and avoided moving about too much. I chose to not become frustrated and instead stopped to gaze at an Orange-breasted Bushshrike, which flew into the thicket ahead of me. Below it, a beautiful Morning Glory flower caught my eye and I bent down to inspect it when rather fortuitously the faint outline of a lion’s paw mark caught my eye just behind the flower and easy as that, we were back in action. A few hundred meters further on we found the lions, lazing at the base of a Jackalberry Tree.

Orange Breasted Bushshrike by Chris Kane-Berman

For me these ‘fortuitous’ events have begun to arise more and more readily and seem to be less and less about luck. Whenever I feel the need to speed up take over, I do the opposite and slow down. It’s in these moments that the muted contact call of a lion can be heard beneath the relative quiet of your slow moving feet, a patch of mud jumps out at you on a branch up ahead from where the rhino recently rubbed past and the smell of a leopard’s territorial marking becomes unmissable because you’re open to the possibility of it. You’re open to every possibility. When you find a sense of stillness, the subtlety of life presents itself to you.


Over the last ten years or so I have noticed how these same trends are happening in the societies we live in too. The political, social and economic tension has been rising but what’s fascinating is that as people accept the place that they find themselves, those that want to change it band together and create a sense of community and they begin to find creative and ingenious ways around the obstacles. The key is to work with what you’ve got because as Byron Katie says, “when I argue with reality, I lose- but only 100% of the time”. Rather than throwing our hands in the air, stomping our feet and giving up on tracking whatever it may be that we’re trying to find, people seem to be gathering, softening their focus and finding alternatives. This is true creativity and tracking.

Lion tracks heading through the clearing into the bush - Aimee Tallian

I think that if we change the way we track not only will we find the lions we’re looking for, we’ll find far more. We’ll take notice of the little creatures, be calmed by the sound of the river running by, safely navigate the other potentially dangerous animals we encounter along the way and enjoy a far more full experience. Let go of the desire to find one particular thing because within that lies the answer to finding everything.

Filed under Lions Tracking Wildlife

About the Author

Amy Attenborough

Media Team

Amy has a rich field-guiding history, having spent time at both Phinda and Ngala Game Reserves. This diversity of past guiding locations brought her an intimate understanding of different biomes across South Africa, and she immediately began making a name for herself as ...

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on Tracking the Matimba Males Helped Me Look at the World With a Lot More Possibility
    Fidel Castroo says:

    Mhangeni have been in MalaMala for over a month now. Nothing to do with Majingilanes, they went to look for den sites and better hunting grounds.

    Dreadlocks mapogo We mapogos came saw and conquered it all says:

    he is right I think they were scouting for potential den sites and the majingilanes only came to investigate due to absence of matimbas

    Dreadlocks mapogo We mapogos came saw and conquered it all says:

    Hi Amy this is a great piece of writing well done.How many cubs does the mhangeni breakaway pride has ?And how many females have given birth ?And how many are currently pregnant ?

    Amy Attenborough says:

    Hi Mishal. To be honest I am not a hundred percent sure and can’t answer these questions accurately. We have been seeing this pride so sporadically and they have been shy with showing there cubs so I don’t think anyone knows yet. We will be sure to keep you updated though..

    Michael & Terri Klauber says:

    Amy, we loved reading this story! Your “let it happen the way it is supposed to happen” attitude is the way to go!

    Amy Attenborough says:

    Thank you Michael and Terri. It really does make life SO much more enjoyable hey?! Hope you’re both well 🙂 When will you be back here with us again?

    Ann Seagle says:

    Beautifully written.

    Lee says:

    Thank you for this! I need practice slowing down and allowing what wants to happen. This is a great way to think about it and let it be.

    Amy Attenborough says:

    Thank you Lee! Come practice with us here at Londolozi 🙂 I’ve always found nature to be the best teacher!

    Firmino Sandro says:

    New little matimbas. Can’t wait to see them!!!

    Bruce Finocchio says:

    The Navajos call it “Walking In Beauty”. When you are in this total focused state of awareness, time seems to stand still and last forever. The present moment occupies your state of being, details seems sharper, you see and hear more, everything slows down, you become totally immersed in your surroundings. It’s completely different than living in the modern fast paced world, instead of time disappearing; it last forever because the memories are so etched on the view screen of your mind. Peace and contentment become hallmarks of your life when you live close to nature. Harmony and balance mark your daily existence. In this state, you are alive more than you ever have been before.

    For those who want to explore this topic further, a great read and source of more information is Tom Brown’s “The Grandfather.” Where he details the lessons of an aware life taught to him by his friend Rick’s Apache grandfather. Here is a link:

    Diana Viney says:

    Bruce, I had the pleasure of reading this book before coming to Londolozi last May. The book held so many beautiful teachings and stories. In these days I visit my Seattle Spa and as I open my arms underneath the chilly cascade of waterfall, I remember the Grandfather and his communion with our natural world, the desert, the trees or the waterfall and share his deep gratitude for these things and all that they embody and teach. So glad this book is out there.

    Bruce Finocchio says:

    Diana, yes, Tom Brown’s books are incredible. I have read them all. I must have read the “Grandfather” at least four times over the years, the first time in the early 1990’s when it first came out. It’s my favorite. I am glad you took a lot of its principles into your heart.

    I have a couple of stories on my blog, “My Love Affair with a Londolozi Leopard, Ubuntu, the Soul of the Elephant, that you might enjoy reading. (

    Also, you might want to check out “The Forest People” by Colin Turnbull, where he documents the stories and lives of the Bambuti People of Central Africa. It’s a classic on the culture of the hunter-gatherer people. A truly egalitarian culture that practices conservation by not allowing hunting in the center of the rain forest, or facing the wrath of the “molimo”.

    I am also a big fan of Wilbur Smith, especially when he is describing African wildlife. “The Burning Shore” is my favorite, I have re-read the passage of the young French Girl with the old Bushman Couple traveling through the Kalahari Sands at least fifty times.

    Enjoy your waterfall, be humble, and practice “awareness”.

    Amy Attenborough says:

    Hi Bruce. Thank you so much for the link. I’ll definitely give it a read. “Walking in beauty”- I love that!

    Anonymous says:


    Diana Viney says:

    Amy, many thanks to you for your beautifully articulated article. I too, have been softening my gaze, calming down, and looking around to notice this beautiful planet. Following the tracks in this way, we open ourselves up to the infinite intelligence all around us. My heart softens to know you are there, seeing and sharing Londolozi as you do.

    Amy Attenborough says:

    Thank you Diana! We are totally on the same page. And it softens my heart to know that you’re out there, seeing and sharing this infinite intelligence with the people around you.

    Stuart Manford says:

    As an African living in Australia, this blog (with it’s stunning photos and beautiful words) seems to close the gap a little and genuinely feeds the soul!

    Amy Attenborough says:

    That makes me so happy to hear! Thank you Stuart!

    The Wanderer says:

    Hi Amy! A wonderful read. I was just wondering the last “Lion Update” was on “August 20, 2016”. Please guide if there are any posts regarding the lions which I am missing.

    Rich says:

    Amy this is such beautiful message and such great teachings from nature. I have found that practicing listening and breathing helps bring me back to presence and open myself up to the infinite possibilities and opportunities of life.

    Jill Larone says:

    Beautifully written Amy and stunning images! It’s amazing how life’s opportunities seem to come to you when you are least looking — so just breathe and take it all in.

    Roberto Sanchez says:

    Hi Amy, Mhangeni Breakaway cubs are not fathered by Majongilanes and the original Mhangeni cubs were all not all sired by Majingilanes either, 7/8 of them are Matimbas offsprings.

    Amy Attenborough says:

    Hi Roberto. Yes you are right in that the Mhangeni breakaway cubs are not fathered by the Majingilanes but we believe that the the original Mhangeni cubs are fathered by the Majingilane. Interested as to where you got your information?

    Roberto Sanchez says:

    Everyone on social media comments so. I think Singita guides can better help you. I heard them saying on their facebook page a couple of times. They said both coalitions did the mating. And they only recorded sightings of two Mhangeni females mating with two Majingilane when they already showed signs of pregnancy and think most of the mating was done by the coalition to the east… Because the Mhangeni are of nomadic nature and their territory and den sites did not fall into Matimba territory. They stayed in west in Majingilane established territory. And the Majigilane thinks they sired the cubs.

    Roberto Sanchez says:

    I forgot to mention, they also said the dark maned matimba was seen mating with Mhangeni (original) females on three occasions in singita. And recorded one mating session of light maned matimba.

    Roberto Sanchez says:

    Hi Amy, just read from MalaMala that a big fight has happened between Matshapiri and Matimba. Do you have any update about it?

    Linda Polley says:

    Amy, this was my favorite blog yet! I couldn’t wait to see who wrote it and was not surprised that it was you. So insightful and inspiring. I copied some of your words down in my logbook. Happy Tracking.

    Francis Daisy janssen says:

    Thank you all the way from New Zealand ,I feel I am at home when I read you stories. Keep up the good work and just send more. And more. And all your up dates. Thank you Francis

    Paul says:

    Amy, happy to read that the Tailess Tsalala has been seen mating with a Matimba. She is one of my favorite lionesses and always liked the Matimbas as well. Any idea which Matimba mated with her?

    Susan Strauss says:

    Beautiful, Amy

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