Big Cat Laundry Day!
I don’t know about you, but I kind of felt a sense of accomplishment on Friday morning. We did it! We made it through 35 days of hard lock-down! On to level 4! And then I quickly realized that for our family, level 4 of lock-down doesn’t mean a lot will change. The boys are not going to go to school for a long time, Kruger National Park is still closed and our washing machine is still broken. So yesterday I went to camp once more for two ginormous loads of washing. Little did I know it was going to be a Big Cat Laundry Day!
It was the most beautiful morning yesterday. The sun came up behind the bridge across the Crocodile River in soft streaks of orange, yellow and pink. While I watched the orange sphere climb above the horizon, I could hear hippo’s fight in the river close by. It sounded really violent and I just hope they are both ok.
Our nights here in the south of the park are getting nice and cool. Winter is definitely on its way, and our mornings are crisp and clear with a bit of a bite. It truly is my favourite time of the year! So on this beautiful, crisp Saturday morning, I left for Berg en Dal with two overflowing washing hampers in the boot.
Just after the T-junction, there were two young elephants pushing each other around in the middle of the road. The rest of the herd was scattered on either side of the road and feeding contently. Judging from the amount of debris and elephant dung on the tar, the big herd had obviously spent quite some time here.
Now a lot of animals like using the tar- and dirt roads in the park. They did even before the lock-down. Walking on a clear surface takes a lot less energy than wading though the thick bush. However, with the presence of all the noisy and fast travelling vehicles, the animals were always a bit nervous using the ‘human-paths’, if I can call them that apposed to the animal paths we find snaking through the bush.
But now that there is no traffic, and that there has not been any traffic in more than 5 weeks, it really feels like the human-made roads are becoming animal paths! It really is beautiful to see.
Not only did I have to wait for a good 10 minutes for the elephants to finally move off the road, but I also had about a 10-minute giraffe wait not long after that. And while I was waiting for the giraffe light to turn green, so to say, I noticed that there were elephants right at the top of the hill on my right! What an amazing sight! Steven has told me numerous times that elephants like to climb mountains and this was the first time I saw it with my own eyes.
In the area I saw my sleeping beauty of a lion during my trip to the Laundromat last week, I slowed down hoping to get another sighting of this beautiful big cat. I scanned the bush on my left and on my right without any success until… There he was! He was sleeping in the shade of a bush in the middle of an open patch, looking like the side of a Lion Match-box. I could see one female with him. Could they be mating?
I switched off my engine and sat with these magnificent big cats for a long time. There was not just one, but two females with him. They were doing what lions do best: just lyin’ around! I would have loved to see them mate, but the sun was shining directly on me and I was getting very hot in the car so after about 45 minutes I left. Maybe they would still be there on my way home.
I was still thinking about this male and his two females while I continued my journey to Berg en Dal. I wondered who this guy was… The N4 lion (read A Lion on the Highway and lions in Lower Sabie and An Amazing Hour with Lions) has moved a lot further north after his two coalition partners were killed by two other big males in the Malalane Area. But those two boys were mostly seen together, and this was a male on his own… Mmmmm. If only I could be a proverbial fly on the wall inside the lion prides in our area. Or should I rather say a tick on a lion’s ear…
Anyway, while I was musing over the Malalane Lion pride politics, the last thing I expected was to see more lions!! But, as I came round a bend not far from Berg en Dal, there they were in the shade on the right-hand side of the road: One big male and three beautiful adult females. I quickly grabbed my phone to video the big cats. And I had barely switched on my phone when the male and female started mating! I will post the video I took a little bit later on our Facebook Page.
What a special treat! The male and female growled and snarled and fell asleep again not long after the deed was done. They looked very relaxed and at ease so I slowly, slowly pulled up right next to them and switched off my engine. All four lions looked up at me as I came to a halt, and three of them quickly relaxed again. But one female kept staring intently at me. So much so in fact that it made me quite nervous… and that made for a bit for shaky camera work. Lol. Sorry about that. I have not had a staring contest with a lion before…
Luckily the lioness did not seem agitated by my presence. She was not flicking her tail or showing any signs of aggression. Maybe she had just not seen any cars in a long time… But this beautiful feline in the prime of her life won the staring contest hands down!! I did not know where to look anymore and my heart was racing as I took some pictures…
I, unfortunately, had forgotten my camera with my big lens at home. Murphy’s law dictates that on days that you do not have your good camera with you, you have the most amazing sightings. Which was certainly true for my big cat laundry day yesterday. So I took lots of cell phone pictures and mental pictures too. To remember this day, where I had two lion sightings all to myself and a staring contest with a lioness…