Wonderful welcome back to the bush

Kruger National Park | June 2019

When you are out of the bush for a few months, or even weeks, you really start to crave the fresh air, authentic peace, raw beauty of nature, and you itch to get out into the wilderness. A few days ago, myself and Gert, the newest edition to the SKNP guiding team, were sitting in the guides’ office, listening to the rest of the team speak about the incredible morning that they had spent on the concession watching three young male lions hunting buffalo. My ears pricked when I heard that one of the lions on the hunt was the famed white lion of the Shish Pride, who has been absent from the concession for some time. Seeing this elusive lion, along with his hunting companions, was not an opportunity that Gert and I were willing to miss. We jumped into a Land Rover and drove out into the concession to search for the lions, following the tracks from where they had been seen earlier in the day.

It was just past midday, and in true lowveld winter style, it was boiling hot. We explored the area, combing the shady spots for a tuft of lion tail, where we were sure the notoriously lazy lions would be snoozing through the heat of the day. All hope seemed lost because we could not find hide nor hair of the cats, until we came across a herd of buffalo. We thought that maybe the lions weren’t so lazy after all, and were still trailing the herd hoping for a spot of lunch. We maneuvered into a position where we could see what was happening without disrupting the herd or causing the animals any alarm. We noticed a badly injured cow falling behind the herd, and the stealthy lions not far behind her.

Our excitement started to build as we realised what we were about to witness, and our adrenalin started pumping as the great cats started to close in on the injured buffalo. The rest of the herd had pushed on, leaving their fallen
comrade behind and extremely vulnerable. As the lions came closer to the buffalo, she showed great courage and strength and got up and bellowed and used her last reserves to chase them away. The rest of the herd was now too far away to hear that their cohort was in distress and facing her mortal enemies and unparalleled danger.

The lions converged on their quarry. One jumped on her back, claws hooked; the white lion was at her rump with snapping jaws; and the third hit her from the side knocking her feet out from under her and attempting to cover her muzzle and suffocate her. The first take down attempt was unsuccessful and after adjusting his grip, he bit down on her snout again, silencing her bellows.

The coalition of three young males then had a very substantial meal for to satiate themselves for the next few days.

However, the three youngsters were chased off their hard-earned kill later that night by the dominant males in the area. They were found two days later near Tshokwane, about 50km away from where they were last seen on the buffalo.

It was an incredible sighting to celebrate my homecoming after spending a few months in an urban jungle, and a superb welcome to the SKNP family for Gert, seeing one of only three natural born, free roaming white lions in the wild.