“Adopt the peace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The silence of the morning was broken by the very distinctive calls of male lions calling, but who could it be?
We headed south from camp to the last source of the sound… We turned off the car to listen. A woodland kingfisher repeatedly called and displayed, showing off his beautifully coloured wings, in the Marula branches above us. Another replied to our right. Time seemed to stand still in anticipation, and then we heard them…”they’re close mfo! PHAMBA!” Mike Sithole said to me as he took up seat next to me indicating we go right. A battered and bruised Majingilane male gave us a stare as he sat down near a dam close to the camps and started a call that sounded like it was being summoned from the bowls of the earth beneath him. He was shortly joined by two of his brothers and they called in unison no more than 20 feet away.
Not a single person moved in the vehicle until the lions did. Their general movements were towards the airstrip and we were hopeful they would settle there for a short while. We positioned ourselves to the south of the airstrip in the hope that we would get another chance to witness the calls of these three magnificent cats. Our wishes were granted…
We were all hugely satisfied with the sighting we had been privy to but just when things looked like they might start to settle down, the coalition got up and began to move towards the river. To see lions cross a body of water is truly a sight to behold and something I hope that everybody is fortunate enough to witness. So we crossed the river with a magical plan in place, sure that they would cross where we had positioned ourselves and we’d be able to capture them coming towards us in soft morning light. This was until the sun decided to burn off the cloud cover and instantly changed the temperature by what felt like 30 degrees celsius. But on we sat, ever hopeful that they would appear on the bank opposite us. About an hour and a half later when we were down to our last bottle of water we decided to cross back over the river to see where they may have settled. As we neared a dam outside Pioneer Camp we saw a sight that many safari goers have seen before. There in the shade of a Tamboti thicket were three huge lumps with a couple of limbs sticking into the air, snoring their heads off. We decided it was time for breakfast.
The day’s heat increased rapidly but time seemed to slow for me. The hours that passed that day were some of the longest of my life as I grew ever more hopeful that we would indeed see the Majingilane males cross the river. Mike Sithole and I met early to discuss where we thought they would cross and what time they would do it. The bets were on and game drive time was approaching.
We headed straight to the last position of the passed out felines only to find… three Majingilane males in exactly the same position as we had left them hours earlier. The feeling of excitement quickly faded into the realisation that we would now have to sit for hours in the heat just in case these seemingly unconscious giants, lying in the only available shade, decide to move.
The sun had faded when the first male lifted his head to check his surroundings. He lazily yawned and began to groom himself. After a few minutes he yawned again and began to approach his brothers. One by one he began to wake them until we once again had movement. They started to head towards the banks of the Sand River and we raced across at one of the crossing points to await the approaching lions.
The moments that followed as the three males slowly crossed the sometimes shoulder deep water will stay with me with me forever. It was completely worth the patience and effort and I hope you enjoy the photographs as much as we enjoyed those incredible few moments.