After spending almost nine weeks in lockdown in Cape Town, the thrill of being called back to work, back home, was indescribable. I was elated at the thought of being back in the bush and immersing myself in the sights, sounds and smells of nature. The moment I got back to Singita Kruger National Park, I felt more myself than I had in months. All that was left to complete the picture was seeing a lion – something I had not seen since mid-March. With no guests and few staff on site due to the global Covid-19 crisis, we spent our first Sunday morning back exploring the beautiful concession. The team on site piled into a couple of land cruisers and we set off.
The first hour was sublime, and it just got better. The winter sun was glistening off the grass turning it to burnished gold, the euphorbias were verdant with flowers the colour of lemons against the backdrop of the Lebombo mountains. Around each bend was something that made my heart sing – dainty impalas leaping and dancing through the grass, a brown snake eagle perched in the fork of an ancient leadwood tree and handsome kudus with their majestic horns nibbling on leaves. Along the edge of a sticky thorn thicket we spotted a tower of giraffe, the supermodels of the savannah, staring at something in the distance. Our guide, Solomon, had a hunch that they were staring at a coalition of lions known as the Shish subadults, who have recently moved back onto the concession. We went around the corner and there they were: the young Shish Males, including the much-famed white lion.
We were all over the moon to see the boys back in town and sat spellbound as they stretched and yawned while the skittish giraffes looked on. The white lion and two of his brothers got up and began moving towards the thicket and we decided to follow them for as long as possible to prolong the magic of seeing them up close. Solomon positioned our cruiser so that we had a good view of them walking past. The white lion and one of his brothers headed into a thick bush. I thought that they were trying to find a cool place to nap through the heat of the day- lions are notoriously snoozy! The next thing we heard a rattle and the bush started shaking and in the blink of an eye the white lion had burst out of the shrubbery with a porcupine clenched in his jaws and a snout full of quills. We were all awe-struck at the sighting that was happening just metres from us. Another porcupine scuttled out from the bush, with the other lion in hot pursuit but he was too slow and wary for the wily porcupine. The porcupine is no easy meal for a lion to hunt and these prickly rodents can cause some serious damage to even the fiercest of the African predators. This time however, the lion’s heart won the lion’s share and we watched as he shook some quills out of his muzzle and tucked into his brunch.
We left the lion in peace with his snack, all of us dazzled by our luck and reverential in our love for Lebombo: land of lions.