Greetings and Salutations,
Not far from the Village of St. Lucia and iSimangaliso is a smaller Park, which is a third the size of iSimangaliso. Even by Australian standards not your average backyard. It is just shy of 100 000 hectares. It could be described as a handsome piece of natural wildlife. Historically used as a Zulu hunting area, and still to this day hunting is popular. The shooting is now done by using Gigs, large automatically fired Canons and not guns. Millions of Gigs are blasted away at all sorts of wildlife. I am guilty of this legitimate hunting as well. This type of hunting is not the subject of this incident, although on this particular day we made many exposures.
Lions can be elusive, leopards even more so. Although the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park is not a cat Mecca, there are reasonable populations of these feline members of the Big Five. However as a guide, one needs to approach a trip to our little neighbour somewhat tentatively. Plenty of rhino and buffalo, with elephant notoriously making a last minute appearance. Concerning cats, my well oiled comment is "If you ain't got a line in the water you ain't gonna catch a fish"! So off we head, usually early in the morning to reach the gate around sunrise. Usually these proverbially piscatorial cats make an appearance before 10am, then disappear until late afternoon.
On this particular outing we were just into the Reserve on this 'Cat swinging' day, when we bumped into a pride of lions. No ordinary pride of lions we discovered. First to appear were two large males that patrol the central Corridor section of the Imfolozi Park. On closer inspection we found additional lions, and it seemed they had joined a pride of lionesses for a portion of their kill. With these lionesses there was a sub-adult male that had received a bit of a hiding from the coalition males. All this action added to a very good start to our safari. This was especially true when the two males walked right past our vehicle and ignored all the other vehicles trying to get a good view. "One in the bag!" I thought to myself. "Four to go". Never good to base a safari on just seeing or attempting to see the big five, but when a safari starts like this, Big Five enthusiasm tends to make one careless.
After a couple of rhino and buffalo were sighted just before breakfast, three very determined lionesses strode past us on a mission. In winter these cats can hunt the whole day until successful. Winter weather is cool, so there are often lots of animals concentrated near any water, putting lions in their element. We then stopped at one of the Umfolozi River lookout points, and found seven lions with traffic backed up for half a km. When I say traffic, I mean game. These lions had annexed a watering point on the Umfolozi River, so none of the thirsty animals could slake their thirst for fear of becoming a MacLion burger. At times there would be a moment of thirst-driven weakness, and either an impala or wildebeest would push closer. The minute their vision snapped back to reality, they realised the lions were lions and not rocks, the several hundred head of game would retreat a hundred meters or so to a safe waiting position, just out of reach. For the lions it was that elusive "Sour grape scenario". Although both parties may have been happy with a few sour grapes, as sour grapes may have stifled their hunger or temporarily satiated their thirst. Obviously depending whether it was the eatee or eator. After an hour of this eco-pleasure we moved on, making it one of those days that "You just could not swing a cat without hitting a cat!!"
Hasta la vista my friends
the Knait Wrydah in the Day again.