Another day draws to a close as the sun sits low on the horizon, the air starts to chill and the dark maned Majingilane calls into the night, a scene that truly captures the essence of Africa. However after each night as the darkness descends on a silent bushveld I sense a longing in me to again hear the mighty call. With Richard, my tracker, we head out into the morning with the hope that today will be the day that the Majingilane return.
Richard is not only my partner in crime out in the field but has become a very good friend of mine. We have been working together for the last four or so months and to be honest, I have been amazed on a daily basis not only in his knowledge but in his incredible tracking skills too. Richard is fairly new to Londolozi but has been in the industry for a number of years and in fact is a past student of the Tracker Academy of which he passed with flying colours… Before I met Richard I had heard the other guides who had worked with him say how good he was but had never seen it first hand so I was very excited to get the news that he would be my new team mate. He is still fairly young but has been trained by the best in the business and his experience is unbelievable.
Although our time together has not been long, it has certainly been a great start to an exciting journey and our relationship continues to grow from strength to strength. A tracker and guide relationship is like a marriage, you need to communicate, know what each other are thinking and most importantly trust one another. I am very lucky to say I have found this in Richard.
One thing that stands out about Richard is his positive attitude. He is always up beat and a very determined individual. Something else that strikes me is that he will always explain the situation as he tracks to give me a better understanding of not only what to look for while tracking but also to paint a picture of what may have happened…
Richard and I recently returned from leave and I always look forward to discovering what has gone on in the place we call home while we have been away. One particular interest is the lion dynamics of the area especially concerning the Majingilane males. Recent times have shown that they have increased their territory further to the west which means they are not very often in the east, which is understandable considering their new portion of territory holds new promise to successfully continue their legacy in the form of females which are drawing their attention.
There is no better way to wake up early in the morning than to the sound of male lions calling. It is always exciting to try work out where they are calling from and how far they may be but recently the call of the Majingilane males are getting further and further away…
One particular morning I met which Richard before morning game drive, as we do before every drive, to chat about a plan of what to do and where to go. Richard said to me he had a feeling we should go to the North western corner of Marthly because he thinks that the Majingilane Coalition would be back. We had not seen them for about three and a half weeks as we had been on leave. High risk, high reward so Richard and I decided to go all in….
I love getting out on drive early to discover what secrets the new day unveils and to piece together the puzzle of what the animals have got up to while we have all been asleep. We left Pioneer Camp and headed towards Taylor’s Crossing where we watched the sun rise over the water. There was a sense of excitement in the air. I could see Richard was rearing to go and explore and looking back at my guests, optimism etched on their faces, we headed off with our plan in mind.
We had driven up the entire boundary and the northern break was in sight with no sign of the Majingilane when suddenly Richard raised his hand to show me to stop. We hopped of the vehicle and started walking up the road. There were tracks of an entire pride of lions heading up the boundary towards the break. We walked further up the road and reached the point Richard had first suggested we check out. Tracks for the lions seemed to be heading in all directions. Richard began to explain how the lions had been chasing buffalo and began trying to work out there general direction. As we continued along the tracks a distant roar broke the still morning. We stopped, looking at each other for confirmation as to where we thought it was coming from. It sounded like a male calling from south and east of where we were standing which meant only one thing… The Majingilane males were back!
The North western corner is a massive block and can be very difficult to try and track through but we were definitely up for the challenge. We paced it back to the vehicle and could see the excitement on our guests faces as they had also heard the lion calling.
Richard and I decided to drive the northern break and try get to the closest road that heads south but before we could get there Richard once more raised his hand. Tracks for the pride of lions were on the northern break cutting south off the road. I could see the focus on Richard’s face, like a Jack Russel, he was off, eyes searching the ground and ears in tune with every sound of the bush veld.
As Richard walked through the block I drove around to meet him. We were hot on the trail of the lions and before long I got sight of Richard on the road ahead of me. I stopped the vehicle at the last tracks and joined Richard. He was so determined and definitely a man on a mission. About 10 minutes into walking the tracks, an animated Richard explained how the lions had been chasing zebra, pointing out the signs where running zebras’ hooves had scuffed the ground and lions were hot in pursuit. Suddenly, zebra contact calls could be heard in the distance which indicated to us that perhaps one had been separated from the harem.
We walked a further 50 meters and as we passed a qwaari thicket they came in to view, the whole Mhangeni pride feeding on a zebra. Richard had done it! Our great sense of accomplishment celebrated as we high fived each other and slowly moved away. Victoriously returning back to our guests we revealed the good news but were still uncertain as to whether the males were in fact with the pride.
As we drove into the sighting the anticipation was building. The Mhangeni pride was finishing up their meal and before I had even turned off the vehicle we spotted not one, not two, but three of the Majingilane males lying away from the pride with bellies full. So amazed by the whole event I could’ve shed a tear, our risk had paid off. After following two of the males thinking they would head to water to quench their thirst, we looped around and positioned ourselves so that those two magnificent beasts walked straight towards us, passing the vehicle so comfortable with our presence as though we were not even there. After posing and strutting their stuff through the clearing, to top it off, they went straight to Ximpalapala Pan, drank and settled in a thicket to see off the heat of the day.
It’s mornings such as this that I remember and which remind me of how privileged I am to work with Richard, my great teacher and my friend. I look forward to a future filled with many more experiences with him.
Written and photographed by Trevor McCall-Peat