Lion’s pride on show
No one sleeps when the king of the jungle hunts for a mate
WE HEARD him long before we saw him. The deep, reverberating roar followed by several husky huff, huff, huffs woke us from our light slumber. He was close. Very close.
No, the lion doesn’t sleep tonight. And, apparently, neither do we. In fact, he was right behind our Gondwana Lodge suite, calling for his female mate, and wasn’t going anywhere.
By morning, talk around the South African Sanbona Wildlife Reserve breakfast buffet was that the male white lion had only just left our area.
Our safari ranger Marco Fitchet soon confirmed the night’s excitement, pointing out the lion’s paw prints in the sand by the road, heading west out of our lodge. Within minutes, we were headed with haste past the big dam and towards the hills.
We could see him from afar – his white coat unmistakable against the green of the low-shrubbed, semi-arid Succulent Karoo landscape. As we drew closer, we took up position on the road in front of him. And waited. He was on a mission, having already covered just over 3km in about 50 minutes. While not running or bounding, he kept a steady pace: every step measured and determined.
Then – safari gold. He came up the road and crossed right in front of our Toyota LandCruiser. I was seated on the right side, directly behind the driver, and couldn’t believe my eyes when he walked right beside me. Only the body of the open vehicle separated us.
He nonchalantly passed by, deeming the familiar vehicle and its seven occupants no threat.
Lean, strong, with a beautifully coiffured mane, the bold big cat indeed reigns over this kingdom. As one who grew up with the Kimba the White Lion cartoon on TV, this meeting of human and big cat seemed surreal.
Sanbona, in Barrydale, offers one of the closest safari opportunities from Cape Town – about a three-hour drive away, in the heart of the Western Cape’s Little Karoo.
With the spectrum of majestic Karoo landscapes within its boundaries, the privately owned wildlife reserve is reached from Route 62 – the world’s longest wine route – and lies at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains. At 54,000ha, the massive property is as large as Eungella National Park near Mackay and boasts the big five (a term given to the five most dangerous animals hunted on foot). The big five in this case also includes a pride of lions, made up of members with the recessive white gene as well as the tawny variety.
Over three nights and four days at our all-inclusive lodge, we managed to encounter four of the big five: African elephants, lions, rhino, and Cape buffalo. We only missed the leopards. But for me, the male white lion rules. What a handsome beast he is.
HANDSOME BEAST: A male white lion at the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in South Africa.