As the days start to shorten, the morning game drives have been taken up a level now that we are out just before sunrise. This gives us a greater chance of finding predators on the move in cooler weather. And that was exactly what happened.
We left early one recent morning in search of lions. Our guests had been with us for three nights and we had had a phenomenal few days of game viewing but were yet to see any adult male lions. The evening before, we had spent time with the two Ntsevu Lionesses and their four cubs who, incidentally are offspring of the removed Birmingham Male. All that was left to search for was the incoming Ndzhenga Males who have made south-eastern Londolozi their territory over the last few months.
Shortly after setting out from camp, we got a call on the radio from Dan Hirschowitz who had just bumped into three male lions walking west onto Londolozi. We weren’t too far behind him and shortly after arrived at the scene to have them walking straight towards us, down the dirt road. It was the three Ndzhenga Males who had met up the night before and were now on an early morning territorial patrol. They were moving at a steady pace and seldom stopped other than to scent mark. With them still being so active, I was expecting them to call but they kept silent as if they didn’t want to be detected. We wondered what had brought them together the night before and what their mission was this morning. They marched on as we followed for nearly two hours…
They eventually reached our airstrip where they strolled around for some time, giving us some amazing photographic opportunities. It was here that we got the call from Robbie Ball that were tracks of another male lion coming in our direction. Soon we heard a call from west of the airstrip that caused the three males to all simultaneously lift their heads and look in that direction. Had they come up here because of this foreign male?
It certainly caught their attention but they chose not to respond. They settled on the airstrip for a while and then stood up, led by the larger male, and set off in the opposite direction to where the other lion was calling from. Seemingly acceptant of his presence in that area.
The new direction of the three males took them down to the river, east of the camps and into the area where we had seen the two Ntsevu Lionesses and their four young ones the evening before. If any one of the three males were to stumble across this small pride, they would surely kill the cubs as they are not their progeny. The question everyone had in their minds was where were these four young lions as nobody had managed to find them yet that morning.
We all held our breaths as the three males missioned through the tamboti thickets and down to the southern banks of the Sand River. They reached the exact area we had seen the pride in and began to smell the earth they had laid on. They shuffled around here for a short while before slowly moving on and eventually crossing the river, having somehow not found these four lion cubs or their mothers.