Another new day, and another new set of fantastic sightings! The slightly quiet lion period of last week is now gone again; and our other “new” pride is making things interesting – last night a pride of seven lions were found on the Kruger Park boundary on our eastern side, and this morning, they had pitched up right in the heart of our concession, and somehow stolen a giraffe calf kill from our six Western Pride lions, only to have the last bits of the kill stolen by the dozen and a half Xanatsi hyena clan members! And that was how our day started! Add to that, the two Machimba male lions with the Sumatra lioness in the south exactly where I had been looking for them yesterday, and another lone lioness down that side (not to mention lion tracks all over the southern traversing area), and we once again have our work cut out trying to figure out who is who!
I had planned to head towards the Nhlaralumi and move south during the drive, but the two lion prides had been located near one another first thing in the morning by the Simbavati guides, so I headed in that general direction, and was rewarded with a lovely sighting of the seven new lions (not the Hercules Pride as previously thought, as I believe they are very far south, so now we are not sure who these lions are!!! Possibly the old Timbavati Pride????) feeding on the giraffe calf as the mother giraffe looked on. With about 15 or 16 hyenas gathering, it was only time before things kicked off, and we watched as the one young lioness went about chasing some of the off, knowing that she had the back-up of six other (mostly young) lions nearby. Difference immediately called it and said that his wasn’t the Western Pride, and I foolishly disagreed, based on the information that the other pride in the area and four young male lions with them. Thinking it was the Western Pride, we spent some lovely time with them as they finished the scraps of the giraffe before we moved off and went to ID the other pride. Pulling in to find six, large, well fed lions, it didn’t take long to realise that these six were our Western Pride, and the other seven were the new lions – it left me a bit disappointed that they had given up their kill to a pride of seemingly smaller-sized lions, but based on how well-fed they were, they probably thought it wasn’t worth the fight over scraps. We left them sleeping as the sun stared to warm up and carried on back to the north where we found a couple of elephant bulls and from a distance, we could hear that the hyenas had eventually chased the seven lions off their carcass; following this commotion, the Western Pride decided that it was time to roar and proclaim this land as theirs – good news for us that they are confident to be so vocal even with other lions around. With the morning settling down on the lion front, we spent time with a herd of giraffe, a zebra and impala before making our way to Argyle Dam for coffee with the hippos. We then ventured east and confirmed that the seven lions had come from the Kruger (based on their tracks), but they had clearly chased everything away, as it wasn’t particularly busy there – a few impala herds and a couple of wildebeest were all that greeted us, but it was still nice to see a new area with the guests. Marka had a good morning finding lion and leopard (he also got Nyleti female in the south), but sadly he couldn’t find any rhinos for his guests this time around.
The afternoon was set up nicely for those guides wanting lions, and as I hadn’t seen big male lions, my mission was to go south, but as Angie was heading down there already, I thought that i would bumble through the central regions and head south towards sunset. The drive began late because at the end of high tea, a large elephant bull decided to come and feed on the sedges alongside the pool, and we spent about twenty minutes enjoying his company before heading out; although with warthogs joining the fray, we thought it might be worth our while to just spend the afternoon in camp! We carried on with sightings of warthog, impala, waterbuck and zebra on Piva Plains before trying to relocate the new pride of lions. They had moved during he day, but a few minutes of tracking allowed us to locate the seven lions resting in a mopane thicket near the road – this gave us time to actually look at the pride, and soon realise that they were not a new pride, but that this was in fact a pride we were once very familiar with…the Timbavati Pride! The only, toothless lioness had returned with a number of younger lions, and perhaps like the Western Pride, they have moved into our area looking to set up a territory due to pressure from their old pride males? Whatever the reason, we just keep our fingers crossed that at least one of these prides sticks around. No sooner had I discussed this with the guests when the pride got up and moved east – by the end of drive, they were still on a steady path back east towards the Kruger, and who knows if/when they will return. Carrying on, we hit the Nhlaralumi and moved south, passing distant elephants, hippos, impala and some enjoyable landscapes before eventually finding a small herd of buffalo along the Machaton riverbed, but they fed off into the bush, so we moved towards Entrance Dam for a drink. Sadly Angie did not have luck with the lions, so we tried after dark, but having checked all the roads in the area, decided to cut our losses and head back to the lodge as the wind picked up and the cooler conditions forecast by the weatherman started arriving. The trip home was quiet again, but after another wonderful afternoon, we were not too fussed! Other sightings of the afternoon included the six Western Pride lions in the Nhlaralumi, and scattered elephants across the reserve.