An afternoon to remember

Sabi Sand | June 2019

Every guide and tracker team have a general plan for either the morning or afternoon safari. This plan will include any specific target species as well as the route and general area in which you’re going to work. We were on our second afternoon safari with a lovely family from the United States and the target for the afternoon was lions. We decided to cross the Sand River into the northern parts of our traverse as three sub-adult lions had been located that morning not too far north of Singita Ebony Lodge.

We, however, decided not to head straight to the lions as they would most likely be sleeping under fairly thick vegetation, owing to the hot midday heat we had experienced earlier. So the plan was to work the parts of the north that don’t get explored all too often and then head to the lions a little later on. We were soon greeted by a large breeding herd of elephants along the river and we watched as some of the members drank while others decided to scoop up some of the cool, thick mud and paint their bodies with it.

We continued on, viewing general game when instantaneously my tracker and I both suggested to each other that we head to one of the dams nearby to see if there was any activity. We rounded the corner onto the start of an open clearing with the waterhole in the middle of the clearing. Getting closer we all soon noticed the distinct tawny colouration that could only belong to one species, lions! We found two sub-adult lions, one male and the other a female who were lying on the wall of the waterhole. These were different lions to the ones found in the morning. We moved in closer and identified the lions belonging to that of the Nkuhuma pride, a pride who originate in the northeast of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin. We were in position and boy did Mother Nature decide to put on a show! After roughly 10 minutes, two young white rhino bulls showed up to have a drink, not perturbed at all by the lions’ presence. They finished up and moved off, unknowingly directly along the same path that a large dominant white rhino bull was using to head to the water. A brief standoff ensued before the two young bulls turned and fled, with the dominant bull right on their heels. We now had two lions in the most gorgeous afternoon sunlight watching on as three rhino ran through and around the open clearing. My guests and I, already ecstatic with the action we had just witnessed, had no idea that this was only the beginning.

Three spotted hyena then appeared and, as they do, banded together and started harassing the lions, trying to intimidate them. They would circle, break off from each other taking up different flanks of the lions, calling and chuckling incessantly while the lions remained rather calm with only the odd growl murmured. The hyenas would move off and then band together again coming towards the lions and then break off, perhaps trying to figure out if there was a potential meal in the area that they could relieve the lions of. In the middle of all this, a white rhino cow and calf had made their way to the waterhole, not at all fazed by the commotion that the hyenas were creating.

Now picture this, behind us, we had the now recently set sun, in front of us the two lions and three hyenas, with the full moon rising and to our left a white rhino drinking with her calf suckling and to top it all off a leopard started calling repeatedly to our north. We were blown away!

The hyena eventually gave up and the rhino moved away and that was our cue to start heading back to camp after already being at the waterhole for just under two and a half hours. I’ve had the privilege of going on countless afternoon safaris and so too have my guests and we were all in agreement that that had to be one of the best afternoons we had all ever spent out in the bush.

Sometimes you don’t have to search all over the bush to find magical moments like these. Just stop listen and wait and you will be rewarded.