Now that we’re heading into autumn at Londolozi, a few things are beginning to change. The early mornings have a noticeable crispness, something that they lacked during the summer.
The grass is slowly turning from green to gold and lastly, the sun is rising later and later each day. The combination of the aforementioned phenomena results in spectacular mornings in the bush at this time of year.
It was on one of these mornings last week that just as the sun was rising, tracker Life Sibuyi stopped me and motioned to something on the ground – fresh lion tracks.
I barely had time to inspect the tracks before we heard wildebeest alarming in the clearing that lay just up ahead. A minute later we entered the clearing and to our delight a lioness’s head was peering out over the golden grass. The only thing between the lioness and the sunrise was a rather dismayed herd of wildebeest. We stopped at a distance to drink in the scene. The sun appeared huge as it slowly inched above the horizon. The lioness though, did not seem too interested in the wildebeest or the sunrise and was quite content basking out in the open in the cool morning air.
The sun rose higher in the sky and as the clearing was illuminated further, we moved in closer to get a better look at the lioness, soon realising that there were a number of other lions with her. It turned out the the lioness was an Ntsevu female and was accompanied by a small portion her pride.
The lions had been hunting the previous evening and their travels found them in this particular clearing at dawn. By the looks of things, they had managed to catch something during the night as their bellies were fairly full and the wildebeest were of no further concern to them. We watched them laze around and felt the morning begin to warm up. The increasing temperature roused the lions and slowly they ambled to a shady area on the edge of the clearing where they promptly fell asleep again.
We watched as the last sub-adult settled in the shade when just as we were about to leave, a booming roar splintered through the still morning air. The lions stirred a little but showed no close attention to the call. We on the other hand took the roar as a sign to continue and left the lions to enjoy their hard earned rest. We raced off in the direction of the noise.
We arrived up on the crest where we believed the call had originated from. Conveniently, we heard the roar again – much closer this time. A quick U-turn was all that was required and as we turned we saw a big Birmingham male emerge from the thicket in front of us. The morning was warm now and he used the shade of a guarrie bush to give off one last call. He listened for an answer – nothing. It was then that he was resigned to his fate; he would have to wait the day out in the shade and go in search of his pride when evening returned.
The Birmingham male was reunited with the Ntsevu pride that night and they were found the next day in a different area. With the pride being so large, we are now used to seeing them in smaller factions and kills are consumed quickly by the hungry youngsters. One of these days the young male members of the pride will become nomadic and wander the wilderness in search of a pride of their own.
For now though the Ntsevu a pride remains semi-intact despite being found in smaller groups scattered around the reserve. We relish the fact that the pride is thriving and every night we go to sleep we eagerly await what the dawn will hold.