With the first morning light just rising above the horizon, we set off on safari eager to see what would be waiting for us. It wasn’t long before Heaviness, my tracker, shouted “STOP! STOP! STOP!” We climbed out of the vehicle to see two sets of male lion tracks walking off the road and towards a drainage line. We quickly circled around to see if the tracks left the bloc, nothing. We explained to the guests that we were going to go in on foot and hopefully find these two males. After 20 minutes on foot we had no luck locating the lions but we were able to interpret their nightly antics as they had been chasing a dazzle of zebra.
We then stopped for a morning coffee watching a herd of impala frolic in an open area. After coffee we located a journey of giraffe with several impala around them. Out of nowhere Heaviness turns to me with huge excitement saying “wild dogs! Go, go, go!” It was a pack of 8 wild dogs running frantically around the giraffe trying to catch an impala lamb. I turned around to the guests saying hold on and we actively pursued the pack running through the bush. We left them becoming static, cooling them selves down around a small watering hole and made our way back for breakfast.
It was now time for the afternoon safari and locating a leopard was our goal. We approached an open area to see 3 rhino wallowing in a large mud wallow with a huge herd of elephant feeding along the Northern treeline. Whilst watching the rhino and elephants, 5 buffalo bulls made their way to this much-cherished wallow. The rhino were not happy with this plan and proceeded to chase the buffalo in, out and all around this mud wallow. We left this now settled chaos on the open area and decided to drive along the banks of the Msuthlu River as this would be our best place to hopefully find a leopard.
All of a sudden the silence of the radio broke and Ross called in a female leopard with a cub not far from our current location, I quickly called in for an approach to join Ross. Whilst on my way to join the sighting Heaviness shouts “leopard, go back now!” I throw the Land Rover in reverse, grabbed my binoculars and about 15 meters off the road, lying flat, trying to avoid detection was Mahlathini male leopard. The vehicle lit up with excitement and smiles as we approached him. After an incredible sighting we left and decided to go and get a well-deserved drink.
With the sun setting and the mood on the vehicle incredibly joyous we decided to make our way to where 3 male lions had been seen that morning. Heaviness and I were chatting to try and think and guess if it would be the Sand River males or the Majingilane male coalition, possibly the strongest male lion coalition in the Sabi Sands. As we arrived into the last known position of the males, we were all buzzing with excitement of the unknown, we turned left and all of a sudden the unmistakable size, mane colour and shear aura of the Majingilane males hit us. We watched as the males slowly started to yawn, stretch and start to groom each other and then decide to do what male lions often do best, go back to sleep. We decided now that the lure of Bush Lodge’s cuisine was growing and we decided to leave the males out in the open clearing and head back for a wonderful dinner.
Heaviness picked up his spotlight to start guiding me out and back to the road; it was no longer than one rotation of spotlight before I heard, “Leopard.” I was shocked – how could there be a leopard within 60 meters of these three huge male lions. On a closer look it was a female known as Little Bush female. She stood there in awe, much like us when we first saw these three majestic males.
Shortly after she started to slink away, carefully looking back and up all the large trees for potential escape routes. Little Bush female slowly moved off along the treeline with us following closely behind watching her scent mark and patrolling her territory. All of a sudden Heaviness dropped the spotlight off her and told me to turn all my lights off immediately, what was happening? I was completely unclear as to what was happening and was asking a flurry of questions. Heaviness picked up the spotlight and told me there was a lion 20 meters away from my vehicle. I could not believe this – it was the three Majingilane males stalking her, getting closer and closer as we sat in the dark. Our minds were going crazy with imagination of what was happening as we could hear the males creep through the nearby grass. There was a sudden burst and explosion from the bushes, we went lights on immediately, Little Bush female was nowhere to be seen and the three males were slightly out of breath, they regrouped and started grooming one another.
Words cannot describe the pure enthusiasm, shock and excitement on our vehicle, we all high fived and decided that the Bush Lodge bar was highly needed for some serious celebration drinks. What a day!