While driving along the Sand River, I overheard via my radio, a conversation between two guides. They were referring to a lioness that had put her life on the line by chasing off one of the large male lions from the coalition. She was protecting her cubs and this was her duty. Anyone who has ever been confronted by a lioness with cubs present will agree that they are a force to be reckoned with and require the upmost respect. I admired this lion for standing up to an animal twice her size and hoped I would have the opportunity to meet her.

I later found out she belonged to the Shumungu Pride, which spend a fair bit of time within the Singita Sabi Sand reserve. Not long after her interaction with the male lion, the pride had been reported heading east toward the southern boundary of the Singita property. This particular area is breathtaking, where the thick bush gives away to vast, undulating plains. This was an ideal place to spend some quality time with this pride, and due to the topography I felt we had a great chance of locating the animals.

We set out with high expectations, teaming up with two other guides who were also interested in finding the pride. Starting off from Singita Ebony Lodge we headed for the general direction where they had last been spotted. Teamwork is beneficial, often essential as both the guides and the trackers will work together with radio signaling to make the tracking exercise more efficient.

One of the trackers had located fresh tracks of the pride heading east and now into the heart of Singita’s concession.  Now the pressure was on! The lioness needed to gain distance away from the male lion, to ensure the safety of her cubs. It was still a rather cool morning; this meant they could cover ground rapidly and we would need to work quickly.

After some time tracking the cats, the temperature started to rise and the tracks headed towards one of the few densely vegetated patches in the area.

We headed in the direction of the thick bush and to our delight saw a mother and cub. I knew instantly this was the brave lioness that had so courageously fended off the male lion. The two were still in the open but heading for the thicket a hundred feet ahead. The female was calling; she could only be calling the rest of the pride and we knew from all the tracks ahead they were not far ahead of her.

Suddenly the excited family greeted her low calls; all members greeting one another like they had been apart for a lifetime. It was a great moment and special to see the affection between pride members.  They really are social cats, sharing incredible bonds. Family comes first as the brave lioness had demonstrated that very morning.

James Suter exploring Singita Sabi Sand this week.


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