As the sun crept up over the horizon, we found four tawny figures lying in the grass. Members of our beloved Machaton pride lions – the grandmother, the mother and two cubs all still slumbering. They continue to roam, seemingly aimlessly. Hope is beginning to fade that they will be reunited with the other female and two cubs. The pride was separated when they were forced to flee from the two nomadic males who are still claiming this as their new territory. We left them, wishing there was some way to help them find their family members, but knowing that always nature must take its course.
It wasn’t long before we came upon a big bull elephant, who decided to tolerate our presence despite being in musth. He allowed us an unusually close encounter under the circumstances. Then, over the radio one of our fellow rangers informed us that he had found a pair of rhino. We were informed that they were a bit skittish, but we should at least be able to see them from a distance. By the time we arrived at the location, they had moved off, but our tracker Isaac and ranger Richard were able follow. The thicket was dense, so we parked the Land Rover and went in on foot. Seeing these mammoth animals from ground level gives you a whole new perspective!
Our adrenaline was still rushing from the rhinos when we got word that there was a leopard sighting nearby. As we approached we could see Ntombella, lounging lazily in the branches of the tree top, surveying the area for potential breakfast. She made her assessment then casually climbed down and settled at the base of the trunk for her morning grooming ritual before heading off to find her meal.
Having experienced exceptional sightings of four of the big five in one drive, we decided to follow her lead and we too headed off for a Bush Breakfast.
View a few of the images here:
Words and photos by Jacquie Gauthier