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“King of the Beasts” and no one can doubt that after first seeing a magnificent, mature male lion in the wild! They look so powerful, well-muscled and often scarred from years of battles over dominance and risky hunts. Pride lionesses are pretty special as well, with their beautiful golden coats and – my favourite – their white eyeliner! And little lion cubs…what can be more adorable, all full of brown-eyed energy and playful romping. It goes without saying that lions are on everyone’s ‘must see’ list when they go on safari.
When Bob and I visited Londolozi last month we saw – and heard – lions roaring in the morning, watched lions crossing the Sand River at night, saw lions mating, watched a pride dining on a young hippo and even saw two brothers of the famous Majingilane coalition as they came onto Londolozi, patrolling against intruders. Here are some of the lions we were privileged to see…
One of the Styx males in the late afternoon. Young, unscarred and looking to be fully “in charge.”
When he joined his brother, they greeted affectionately – then both rolled onto their backs for another sleep!
These two females from the Tsalala pride were with the brothers and later joined the brothers on a night hunt.
One of the brothers showing the flehmen face whereby pheromones provide clues as to the reproductive state of the females.
The young hippo likely had an injured leg, according to tracker Mike Sithole, and the Tsalala pride claimed him earlier that morning. They were in a hollow, feasting on their prize, when we drove up. Most of the images are too graphic to show here, but the faces of the pride members give you an idea of how intense the feeding frenzy was.
Most of the seven pride members were gathered around the carcass, all having their fill, some already exhausted from the effort of bringing down such a large animal.
A few, like this female, were already satiated, resting between eating sessions.
And this one was just impatient, apparently, for her turn at the optimal spot to feed!
When we visited that night they were still gathered round their meal, pushing and growling for ‘best’ position. They only left the carcass about three days later – perhaps concerned that the Fourways males had crossed the river into their territory.
The two Fourways males are young, strong and powerful-looking as they pushed their way past camp, scent-marking and checking out the territory.
Although apparently not brothers (one is a son of Majingilane), they looked like a couple of young thugs, strutting into town!
They briefly took over the airstrip that morning, but on the alert for whoever might not want them around…
When they crossed back over the river that night, it was magical.
In the sand on the other side of the river, they rested and gave us the chance to take some spectacular images.
Several days later, we encountered one of the Fourways males on the road ahead of us, early in the morning, where he was calling for his partner. At that point, no one knew for certain where the other male had gone.
I almost felt as though he was roaring at me, looking straight at me! The sound of a lion’s roar is not easily forgotten…
He never found his partner that day, but we later found them both – his buddy had found a willing lady and was mating with her. He’d never been ‘lost’ after all!
We had a brief glimpse of Scar Nose and Hip Scar who had looked as though they were on a mission to find intruders, but they seemed to lose interest and again headed off the property.
Did the Majingilane’s find the Fourways and chase them off or, more likely, are there stories yet to come? The lion ‘politics’ of Londolozi is always interesting!
Written, Photographed and Filmed by Mary Beth Wheeler, Londolozi Guest