Pride and Joy
Pride and Joy
After a 16 month hiatus, no thanks to Covid-19, I cannot adequately describe what it was like to return to Singita Pamushana.
It just feels right. The powder dust air soothing my skin, open-vehicle-wind ruffling my hair, the persistent sun kissing my neck. The tension in the atmosphere before an electric storm cracks open… The scent of thatch, floor polish and wild basil… The roar of impala, the echo of fish eagles, the way we speak on the radio, the names Chimizie, Chinzwini, Chikwete, Chiloveka… The colours April wears - sage, apple, pewter, copper and bronze… Old friends, smiling faces, kind words. My home from home, where I keep my wildness because the wilderness says so.
The lion tracking scouts had found the Southern Pride near Chiloveka Dam and I debated going to see them or trying to relocate the pack of wild dogs I’d seen that morning. Heading south I noticed how the season had progressed in these drier parts – there were far more metallic colours in the palette, and the vegetation was drying out to the point where it was sharp and bright and structural, and holding the light in a way that’s particular to April and particularly beautiful for photographers and artists alike.
The Southern Pride were snoozing on the side of a track, in the late afternoon light. It simply couldn’t have been more beautiful, and they are a particular beautiful pride. The dominant male was so relaxed that he didn’t even bother to lift his head, which is remarkable when you realise they haven’t been regularly viewed by guests for a year. One of the lionesses lay in a pool of gold, idly watching the world go by, or possibly wondering what was for dinner.
Another lioness got up and went for a good cat stretch and claw sharpening session on a resilient mopane tree.
What they were hiding from me was the fact that a little further down the track was another lioness, with two baby cubs of about four weeks old. The cubs saw the game viewer and scampered into the bushes, relying on their excellent instinct to hide from potential danger, while their mother simply stayed where she was letting them know that guides and their guests are no threat. I’m sure that as the respectful viewings of this pride increase the cubs will settle down and provide immense joy to all of us.
The next morning this pride was to be found in serious hunting mode. All the lazing about of this scene was replaced with serious intent and focus. The male set the tone with a resounding roar that let any other lion know he was on patrol. The mother with the cubs was not with the four lionesses and the male – her cubs are still far too little to go out hunting. There is a dense thicket of palms and swamp growth next to the dam, and I’m quite sure she has her cubs safely stashed in the impenetrable fortress. She will suckle them there and introduce them to the pride in the coming months.
It was so heart-warming to see this pride again – to see the youngsters from a couple of years ago all grown up, healthy and strong, and to know a new generation has been born. Old friends, new friends, scarred faces, resuscitating roars.