The Tsalala pride are a bit different to other prides. They like to move in the day. Even in the heat of Summer, they are seldom to be found in the evening at the same place they were left in the morning. I like this about them for two reasons. One, it doesn’t matter how long after sun-up it is, you can still get a great sighting and anything can happen. Two, you can have the fun of a track-and-find twice in one day if they do decide to move a bit.
They were found snoozing in the Manyelethi riverbed recently, with relatively full bellies, and we decided to head there in the afternoon to try capture some pictures in the beautiful natural setting. Being full, we presumed they would be unlikely to leave the comfort of the sand, but as is so often the case with the Tsalala pride, they had other ideas.
Tracks left the riverbed and headed south, parallel to the Manyelethi river, but within a few hundred metres the tracks had once more descended into the sand. A further 30mins later the clear pug marks left by the lions were looking very fresh, but in the failing light we were moving cautiously on foot.
Before we could catch up to the Tsalalas, the tracker/ranger team of Euce and Werner had found the Mhangeni pride not too far away, and the “Highly mobile!” update he gave on the radio was enough to raise our pulses. We thought there was a chance that the Mhangeni lions were moving towards where the Tsalala pride was, so made the decision to leap ahead to Werner’s position. As it happened, the Mhangeni pride were racing in to take down a giraffe calf, and we arrived a mere minute after they had killed it. A fascinating sighting followed, as we watched the 13 Mhangeni lions tearing into the carcass, all thoughts of the Tsalala pride long forgotten.
We decided to get back on the trail the following morning, but no tracking was required as we turned a corner on the hill opposite Varty Camp and bumped into the pride coming the other way, heading for the river.
Knowing how regularly the pride likes to use a certain shallow section to cross the Sand River, we positioned ourselves on the opposite bank and waited.
Our patience was rewarded…
Eventually the lions got tired, and moved into a nearby thicket to sleep as the sun and the temperature rose.
And would you believe it, by that afternoon, when some of the rangers headed out to enjoy a sighting with the pride, they had gone again…
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell