little lions

What a manic last few weeks, the lodges have been packed and the bush has been pumping. The chill of winter has put its icy grip over the bush and the bush has all but dried out. The trees are losing their leaves and the herbivores are starting to loose condition. This all bodes very well for the new additions to the Southern Pride as they have been enjoying the bounty of buffalo that have been moving on and off of the reserve.

lion cubs

Over the last 2 weeks the lions have managed to pull down 4 buffalo and have been feasting to the point of bursting. After pulling down the first of the four they were sitting digesting their meal at a waterhole 150 metres from the kill when another buffalo bull decided to walk right into them offering them another substantial meal.

lion cubs at sabi sabi private game reserve

Two of the cubs have been joining the feasts and the other cubs are still being hidden away in their den sites for the moment but will surely be brought out to meet the rest of the pride with the next few weeks.

lion cub at sabi sabi private game reserve

Some of the most outstanding times that I have been with the cubs were after the first and second buffalos were killed. On the first occasion we arrived at the kill towards the end of our game drive, all the vehicles had left and we were left in solitude with the pride. The cubs were fat and round; bellies filled with the nutritious meat of the buffalo and were in high spirits. They ran around tackling one another before mom decided to take them for a drink. What a sighting as we watched the little ones line up next to mom and enjoy a refreshing dose of water to quench their thirst. Their reflections danced on the water as their lapping tongues sent ripples across the dam. They slowly moved around exploring the water’s edge, completely oblivious to the possibility of a crocodile waiting for one of them to get close. Fortunately though there was no threat in this particular water source.

lion cubs and mom at sabi sabi private game reserve

lion cub drinking with mom at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

lion cub

lion cubs at sabi sabi private game reserve

lion cub

As mom decided to head back towards the rest of the pride, she decided to give one of the little ones a lift and gently placed her cub in her deadly jaws. The instant reaction of the cub was to go limp and it appeared as if she were carrying a dead body. The other cub bounded along behind mom yelping as if to say “what about me mom?”

lion cubs at sabi sabi private game reserve

lioness carying cub

With two buffalo eaten in quick succession and the Kruger males having proved their abilities as fathers, the older females fell into oestrus and love filled the air. The sounds of lions mating, as the females growled at the males and the males submissively squealed as they mated, filled the cold air and the guest were amazed at their luck to be able to see such interaction at close quarters. Three of the females eventually mated with the two males and the oldest female with the floppy ear ended up mating with both males.

lions mating at sabi sabi private game reserve

One night on our way back from a bush braai (barbeque out in the bush under the African stars) we stopped to watch one of the mating pairs. As we sat waiting for the next session, the pride decided to join. As we sat watching the interaction, one of the females approached the mating couple and behind her waddled the two 7-week-old cubs. We switched off our lights and were about leave so as not to put pressure on the little ones when one of the females started to roar. In the pitch black with the stars sparkling overhead, 16 lions, including the tiny cubs, began to send a message to everyone within earshot. What a sound! Our chests rattled as the roars resounded over the bush. As the male finished the last of his roar, the silence was deafening! Our hearts were racing as the adrenalin pumped through our bodies, the guests sat silently in the dark wondering if the lions were trying to chase us away but were too afraid to ask. Eventually once we left they asked why they had been doing it and I told them that it was just to reinforce their dominance over the territory and let all the other lions around know not to come anywhere near!

kruger male lion at sabi sabi

It is scary to think that the pride is now 19 strong with one of the female’s cubs unaccounted for, plus the potential addition of new cubs in the next 4 months from the 3 females that have just mated! This is going to be a force to be reckoned with and the biggest pride in the Sabi Sands looks to be invincible at the moment.

by: Richard de Gouveia (Little Bush Camp ranger)


  1. syl says

    Sweet…love how the little ones were watching dad.
    How many of the pride have the joint swellings?

    • ranger rich says

      Unfortunately there are two with Joint swellings Syl…TB is present throughout the pride but will only start affecting them later on in life or if they have a serious injury!

  2. hazel dowie says

    Hi Richard,

    I have been following the news on FB but this email is fantastic, I love watching and hearing all about what is going on there. Thank you. You must be about to go away for your 2 weeks off so enjoy and have a relaxing time. Please keep the news and those wonderful photos of yours coming.

    Best wishes, Hazel x

  3. stefi says

    Hi Rich, amazing photos again! Thanks.
    Just wanted to tell you to check out the World Press Photo Winners 2012 and 2011/ category nature on the internet. Most of them very dynamic photos!
    Best regards Stefi

  4. terry says

    Thanks for all the updates and fantastic pictures of the lions. Sounds like they are living the high life! Loved the video with the whole pride roaring, including the little ones! Once again a job well done Richard!

    • ranger rich says

      Thank you so much Terry…That was the first time I had heard the whole pride roaring around me so it was very exciting. And to hear those cubs…WOW!

  5. sheila says

    Oh my, what an exciting time at Sabi Sabi. There’s nothing that makes me smile more than the sound of a lion cub trying to roar just like its parents. These are some fantastic photos and of course, the video. Love how the cubs look up at Dad with such admiration.
    Thank you Richard. You always manage to out-do yourself. Keep up the great work. Your blogs really add to my day.

    • ranger rich says

      These are the other two cubs Walker…the two that survived the buffalo attack haven’t been seen but I am positive that they are still alive. We witnessed the two mothers having a scuffle as the mother of these two came too close to the den of the other female.

  6. sarah adams says

    Hi Richard

    Thank you so much for that – great report and fantastic pictures. I almost felt as if I was back there! We had such an informative time with you and so enjoyed it.

    All the best


    • ranger rich says

      Thanks so much Sarah! Glad you enjoyed your experience with us and we hope to have you back here in the near future!

  7. ami says

    Thank you again for the wonderful pictures and for alerting us to the news via our e-mails. It has been a couple of months since our visit but the time we spent in Sabi Sabi continues to swirl in my memories. Your pictures and stories call me back once again. Wish I were there!

  8. elizabeth mainiero says

    Some of the pictures looked as if the cubs also were curious about seeing their reflections on the water.

  9. boro radmanovic says

    Hi Richard,
    Wonderful job, again thank you for shearing with us videos and pictures!

  10. teresa says

    I so enjoy the Sabi Sabi blog, which is the reason that our family has decided to go to the Little Bush Lodge next year. We feel like we will “know” the animals a little bit before we even get there!
    Thanks so very much.

    • ranger rich says

      I am so glad that you like it that much Teresa! I am certain that you will have a fabulous time with us and look forward to meeting you!

  11. mark steinberg says

    You and Calvin do a fabulous job with the blog, your photos and videos. It’s great to be able to keep tabs on the pride – if only virtually – and how large they have gotten just in the past year. Keep up the great work there folks, and we look forward to seeing you all again soon. Bummed that it’s not September. :-(

    • ranger rich says

      Thank you so much Mark. It is amazing to be able to keep up the virtual following as there are such true life dramas that unfold here everyday! We look forward to having you back here!

  12. jan reddrop says

    Our time spent at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge with Ranger Ben and Tracker Zulu, was the most wonderful experience of our lives.

    I feel I know the lions, especially the old male with the wonkey hip. He was the first we saw as we drove from the airstrip to the lodge.

    I hope all the little cubs survive and swell the pride to even bigger numbers.

    cheers, Jan

  13. tino says

    Richard, Your photography is world class. The reflection of the cubs and mother in the water at the rivers edge and the lighting you captured with the large male are astounding. The sabi sabi newsletter has now become my favorite piece of email to receive. Keep up the great job! Tino

  14. johnnybagpipes says

    Hi Richard! I just have to say, being there for the cub sighting, mother with cub in mouth was the BEST sighting I have ever seen in 18 trips! Not to mention the Leopards!! I will never forget it! I can’t wait for the prints! You really have a great way of explaining things! Like lights in the sky after a laser!! We will see you next year! John and Marianne Victoria, Canada

    • ranger rich says

      Mr Johnnybagpipes…although you were only with me for a short while it was great to get to know you guys! I REALLY look forward to seeing you again next year and maybe seeing some more cool things. The best part about knowing that you going next year is that you will see how quickly these little ones grow. Until then you can follow their process right here!

      Have a great day!

  15. mônica says

    Oh, we are very anxious to go to Sabi Sabi in September to see these wonderful animals and everything!!!!!! Luis Roberto and Mônica – São Paulo Brasil

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