It is known to most from all walks of life, whether one has an interest in animals or not, particularly cats, large or small, that they do not enjoy water, with the exception of a small handful, like Jaguars and Tigers. Some would argue against this, due to the fact that in various areas of Southern Africa, like the Okavango Delta where Lions are forced to cross large masses of water to get from point A to B, traverse territory and locate prey, we could over rule this statement that cats do not like water.
From my experience in the bush, as short as it may be, but across a few parts of South Africa, I have yet to encounter a cat, Lion, Leopard or Cheetah that enjoys water. A cat that will deliberately swim in water to cool down or just spend time in water as a daily ritual. These cats despise water. The unknowns of it, the depths, the darkness, the crocodiles and the grooming procedure post hurtling themselves through any body of water. In plain and simple terms, what we witnessed on this beautiful early afternoon, with all 9 cubs of the Mhangeni pride, was something very special, something I will not forget.
We managed to find the Lions in the sand river, on the Southern Bank, however, the adult females had moved out of the river to find refuge in the shade of the Jackalberry trees, overlooking the cubs which lay waiting, patiently for their mothers return. However, the cubs became restless and bored, like any young child would without stimulation and out of pure frustration they began to wrestle. Two of the cubs grabbed my attention as they were situated on a small island in the middle of two flowing bodies of water. Certainly the most dangerous place to fight, however they had no concern and fight they did.
We were lucky enough to have some great lighting for these action shots, however as a general rule, when there is a lot of movement from animals and one is trying to freeze that action, ensure a high shutter speed in order to eliminate blurred images. For all of these images, my f-stop was low, and the lighting allowed for a relatively low ISO. For increased shutter speed, increasing your ISO will help alot, but remember the higher it goes, the more “noise” your image will show.
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland