Singita Kruger National Park is especially well-known for its exceptional big cat population, as well as a remarkable concentration of the rest of the ‘Big 5’. They have free reign over Singita’s 33 000-acre concession in the southeastern reaches of the Kruger National Park, and beyond.
There are a number of large “mega prides” in the area, the sheer size of which is forcing groups to split off and create their own prides and start new bloodlines in the process. In April this year, it was reported that the five Shishangaan males had fought their way in and taken over the territory from two previous males. This led to copious mating activity, the results of which we are starting to see in the N’wanetsi section of the Park.
In the June Wildlife Report from the region, field guide Nick du Plessis says: “The Mountain pride of lions is, and has been for a while, growing at a rapid rate. To date we’ve seen a total of fifteen cubs in the northern half of the Xhikelengane drainage, with a couple of adult females still looking very heavily pregnant – and cubs from them are imminent. The pride at this point is still fairly fragmented, which is by no means unusual, with most of the cubs still being too young to leave den-sites and follow the pride. This should all change once the cubs reach the age where they are introduced to the rest of the pride, at which point they only have a couple of months before they are weaned and the pride needs its strength in numbers. With the small pans and waterholes slowly drying up, water is becoming less readily available with the defining change of the season. With all the general game concentrating where there is still a place to drink it won’t be long before all the pride members will converge at this point.”
The photos you see here are by field guide and wildlife photographer Barry Peiser, who tracked the lions while working at Singita Kruger National Park. He observed the Mountain pride moving with their cubs between the northern and eastern parts of the concession, hiding the youngsters in the drainage line where long grass and fallen tress offer good coverage for them.
You can follow the antics of these gorgeous little cubs on Facebook and in our monthly Wildlife Reports. You can also subscribe to the blog to see more of Barry’s photos of the cubs in the coming weeks.
You would be forgiven for assuming that lions, the larger and more ferocious cousins of our domestic cats, weren’t big fans of the water. In actual fact, lions are excellent swimmers and although they aren’t prone to daily dips (unlike tigers who use the water to cool down) they will cross a body of water with ease.
Marlon du Toit, a Field Guide at Singita Sabi Sand is an excellent wildlife photographer whose pictures can regularly be seen on this blog, our Facebook page and across various international websites and publications. He was lucky enough to get this incredible photograph of not only two adult lionesses traversing the Sand River, but with six little lion cubs in tow! As Marlon says, “This is a lifetime of waiting and hoping all in one shot… something very special indeed.”
Our “Field Guide Favourites” is an ongoing series of wildlife photographs from our team in the bush. See more of Marlon’s photographs in previous posts or visit his website for more.
Singita’s field guides are required to have a number of skills; the powers of observation, knowledge of various bird calls and animal spoor, good awareness of their surroundings and a passion for the African bush among them. Some of them also happen to be talented photographers and are responsible for many of the wildlife shots you see on this blog.
We will be showcasing some of their favourite photos over the next few weeks, with some words from the field guides themselves about the moment they captured through the lens. First we have Dylan Brandt from Singita Sabi Sand, a regular contributor to our blog and Facebook page:
Light has a wonderful way of creating mood. All it takes is a keen eye and a little patience and the rest will unfold in front of you. We had been following the roars of lion for an hour before we found two lionesses lying on the edge of a barely driven, two-track dirt road. The lionesses started moving and roaring only to attract a coalition of males nearby. It was a misty overcast morning, cool and damp with the sun nowhere to be seen. We spent an hour enjoying the pride hoping for a break in the clouds to cast a bit of sunlight for a quick image or two.
Male lions have a habit of snoozing the day away and opportunities for unusual photographs are few and far between. We were fortunate however to have a wonderful ray of sunlight beam through a thick canopy to light up the head of one of the adults. The rest of the image contrasted in shade made for a great chance to capitalise on light.
A keen eye, a little patience and the rest will unfold in front of you.
Keep an eye on the blog for more special photographs from our field guides and catch up on our monthly Wildlife Reports for more.
It had taken three days for us to locate our first pride of lions in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge. We had been preoccupied with the abundance of wildlife and other unique sightings, so I hadn’t realised we had yet to see this member of the Big Five.
One morning, while working the Eastern sections of the reserve, we noticed a committee of vultures some distance away, who were circling in the sky and then dropping to the ground. Judging by the number of birds we suspected they had found something large.
There was no debate; we began driving in the direction of the scavenging birds. I never tire of the anticipation one feels when following up on a sign that may lead to predators and I was hoping that we would see something special. As we approached we could see the birds waiting patiently above a large figure in the grass which turned our to be an adult bull giraffe; this could only be the work of lions.
The small pride consisted of just a single adult male, a female and a younger sub-adult male. Lions are powerful animals and hunting in co-ordinated groups greatly increases their chances of success. Being primarily nocturnal, these lions had the advantage of hunting under the cover of darkness and had surprised the giraffe just before dawn. It was an especially unusual kill, considering that lions rarely attack very large prey such as fully grown male giraffes due to the danger of injury. That, combined with the fact that this was such a small pride, means we were very privileged to have seen it.
Field Guide James Suter is traveling through Africa, visiting Singita’s lodges and camps and documenting the wildlife in each unique location. He recently spotted hyena and cheetah near Singita Pamushana Lodge in south-eastern Zimbabwe, where Singita protects and manages an extraordinary 135 000 acre wilderness area next to the Gonarezhou National Park.
The memories of a trip to Africa and an unforgettable visit to Singita are some of the most precious that a traveller can experience. And while it can be very difficult to recreate that feeling when a guest is back home, they often have spectacular photos to remind them of the unique landscape and wildlife of our continent. We are always thrilled when these photos are shared with us, along with the wonderful stories behind them.
One such visitor to Singita in September 2012 was Mary Robbins, from Lynn, Massachusetts. She travelled to Tanzania and stayed at Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Singita Explore, Singita Sasakwa Lodge and Singita Sabora Tented Camp. Although an enthusiastic safari-lover, this was her first trip with us and she was especially keen to see a leopard and was rewarded with an amazing sighting during her time at the lodges, as well as spotting plenty of other big cats.
Looking back, she writes: “What a fabulous time Frances, my driver, and I had! We drove around the Serengeti and saw wonderful things. We watched the animals for hours on end and that is the only way to really come to an understanding of the way the animals are – by watching the way they move and interact with one another and with other species and with their environment. This was a true safari – a journey into another world – rather than a quick drive across the plain to fill up the time and make a tourist happy. Of course we saw all manner of animal and my personal favorites were:
- The time we came upon a pride of lions lounging on a river bank – then one by one we watched them get up, go to the top of a rock, and splash down into the water and walk/swim across the river to the other side.
- Watching three 3-month old cheetah cubs jumble and play around their mama.
- Admiring a fine, big, male leopard in a tree.
- Watching a pride of lions lounge around a tree and then jump up into it. Watching lion prides and little cubs is always wonderful.
Thank you for visiting us Mary, we hope to see you again soon.
You can see other guest photos on our blog from Stephen Saugestad (Canada) and Jeff Thompson (USA). Don’t forget to catch up on our monthly Wildlife Reports too.
The dam on the plains in front of Singita Sasakwa Lodge was a hive of activity before the rains started in earnest. Animals trek for miles to reach the waterhole, which is one of the few that offers a good field of view. In particular there have been huge herds of zebra coming in to drink, often wading deep into the water. From around 09h00 through to 17h00 it is always busy. Sometimes there are smaller herds of impala joining the zebra and often the Butamtam lion pride is found positioned close to the waterhole in the hopes of making a kill.
This striking black and white photography was taken by Lee Bennett, Head Guide at Singita Grumeti Reserves. To follow wildlife updates from Grumeti Reserves, refer to the monthly Guides’ Diaries posted on Singita’s website.
Just under 10 years ago Singita Grumeti Reserves was a gorgeous landscape but it was completely devoid of game. Illegal poaching and uncontrolled legal hunting had resulted in the collapse of the wildlife population.
The goal with establishing the Singita Grumeti Fund was to generate profit for use in two areas: wildlife conservation and community development.
From the onset of this initiative everyone involved understood that any wildlife conversation efforts would not succeed without the support of the surrounding communities. To be in a position to be able to provide this support the community required education and development; in other words Singita Grumeti Reserves needed to give the community an understanding of conservation and help the community to create a sustainable alternative to the hunting/poaching of game.
From the day the Singita Grumeti Fund was established and into the foreseeable future all profits, including profit generated through tourism, have been and will be used solely to support the Fund. This means that every guest who stays at Singita Sasakwa Lodge, Singita Faru Faru Lodge or Singita Sabora Tented Camp supports the Fund initiatives.
In just under a decade the Fund team, Singita Grumeti Reserve guests and others have – through their hard work, dedication and donations – helped restore the vast majority of Singita Grumeti Reserves resident wildlife population. Through additional and extensive education efforts and the creation of alternative employment opportunities – for those residing around the Serengeti ecosystem – the groundwork for sustainable conservation, in Singita Grumeti Reserves (and beyond), has been laid.
If you’ve stayed as a guest at Singita Grumeti Reserves, you can be proud of what your stay has helped us achieve.
For more information about the various Singita Grumeti Fund initiatives please email firstname.lastname@example.org