Stories from the Masai Mara: Lion Pride Kills Wildebeest
Oct19

Stories from the Masai Mara: Lion Pride Kills Wildebeest

Another day, another Mara tale from our repeat guest, Nik Simpson! During August and September, the famous wildebeest migration is taking place in northern Serengeti, making those dangerous river crossings at the Mara and Talek Rivers in order to follow their age-old migration routes in pursuit of good grasses. Of course, the lions (and leopards, cheetahs, crocs, and hyenas) have learned over many years that this is where they stand a chance of an easy meal, and sure enough, plenty of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and other migrating antelope fall victim to the predating jaws of the hunters. Nik spent this year’s safari in the thick of it all in Kenya and Tanzania, and it paid off with plenty of breathtaking wildlife encounters associated with the magnetic migration. In recent blog posts, we’ve shared Nik’s photos and accompanying stories from a Talek River crossing, to a cheetah kill, a leopard and her cub, and now a superb safari experience while staying at Ilkeliani Camp: Lions taking down a wildebeest.  To see a kill in action is an occasion you’ll never forget. It takes your breath away and wreaks havoc with your emotions – the lions need to eat, but you want to wildebeest to survive. The circle of life is not always an easy pill to swallow. Something that is important to remember is that lion cubs only have a 50% chance of survival in the wild, and male lions in particular face plenty of difficulties from birth all the way until death. In addition, the wild lion population of the world has decreased from hundreds of thousands to only about 20 000, so to see a pride of lions thriving in their natural habitat is becoming more of a rarity every year. This astonishing moment in the Masai Mara went from thrilling to phenomenal when two lionesses successfully hunted a wildebeest, and then called their cubs out to join in the feast. With no male lions in the area, this little pride was free to eat in peace. Nik’s great images show about 6 cubs bounding over to their mother/s (it is likely that both females gave birth at a similar time given the size of the cubs and the litter), and after an enthusiastic greeting, the little ones tucked into the wildebeest kill alongside the lionesses, and Nik got to enjoy yet another magnificent moment on safari in East Africa....

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“Vanishing Kings” Lion Shot in Human-Wildlife Conflict
Jun23

“Vanishing Kings” Lion Shot in Human-Wildlife Conflict

Hearts are broken in the world of lion conservation after the news of one of the Five Musketeers, featured in the recently released documentary Vanishing Kings, has died after being shot in an incident of human-wildlife conflict in Namibia’s Damaraland. Devastatingly, human-lion conflict is a reality for local farmers and the endangered population of desert lions living in the Damaraland, and last week, an incident took place that saw the death of one male lion and injury of another. These lions belonged to a famously followed pride known as the Five Musketeers. In the dead of night last week the pride attempted to prey on livestock that were being kept in a temporary kraal near the village of Tomakas, and although they were scared off by the commotion of people and dogs, they were followed and shot at by farmers looking to protect their livestock. One of the Five Musketeers known as Harry was killed, while two others appeared to be superficially injured. Dr. Flip Stander – founder of Desert Lion Conservation – discovered Harry’s body deep in a thicket and it was with sadness that he reported the incident on his blog. As a precautionary measure against the stealing of bones and body parts, Harry’s body was burnt. Mere days after the incident, the four remaining lions (now referred to informally as the Four Musketeers) and two lionesses were recorded approaching giraffe in a valley, but unfortunately came across cattle calves that had not been safely rounded up for the night, and 2 of the calves were killed: a costly setback for the farmers at Tomakas. The next night, the lions followed the same route, keeping clear of the village, and thankfully there was no cattle roaming free in the dangerous night. Instead, the lions killed an oryx – one of their natural prey species in the desert. On 21 June, the Four Musketeers (now heavily monitored by Dr. Stander and those working to prevent an incident) were seen stalking very close to a village and almost chased off using bright lights and fireworks. The scare tactics were called off moments before being deployed as it became clear the lions were in fact stalking giraffe. They successfully killed a giraffe and conflict was avoided. The death of a Musketeer is not the first and will not be the last incident between lions and farmers living on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. There are measures in place to keep livestock safe, and to keep lions away from kraals and villages, but not every incident can be prevented in the vast Damara region. Sun Safaris has supported Desert Lion Conservation over the...

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White  lioness and a Trilogy Male mating in the Klaserie!
Apr22

White lioness and a Trilogy Male mating in the Klaserie!

What an epic sighting in Kruger: White lioness and a Trilogy Male mating!   Guests and the media team of Chloe Cooper, Carolynne Higgins and Kevin MacLaughlin were in the right place at the right time to witness this amazing wildlife sighting of one of the Trilogy males mating with not one, but three lionesses, two of which happened to be the rare white lions! Here is an accounting of the action from Chloe and Carolynne: When game drive takes place in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, you know you’re in for a treat when it comes to lion sightings. Africa on Foot and nThambo Tree Camp have reported sightings of the legendary Ross Pride, the Trilogy Lion coalition, and Ross breakaway lionesses all within the last week or 2. Then this happens… Today we saw white lions. Two of them. The 2 white lionesses of the Giraffe Pride, famous in the Klaserie and Timbavati nature reserves. On the main tar road that divides the 2 unfenced reserves, a sighting of one white lioness and one tawny lioness was called in on the radio. nThambo’s vehicle responded, and to guests’ utter delight, there they were. The snowy fur of the white lioness, standing out from her beige and green environment, and her blue eyes glistened like small pools of ice. Her tawny sister was harder to spot with her camouflaged fur, but there they were, behind the long grass, about 30m into the bush.           We could not have imagined what happened next. The tawny lioness rose and walked off down the long, open road, contact-calling quietly, pausing every so often. Eventually the white lioness followed and we watched in awe as one of the rarest lions in the world stepped out of the vegetation and confidently walked along a dam wall, in full vision of nThambo’s enthralled guests. After a couple of exceptional minutes, the radio grabbed our attention once again. A little further up the road and in an open clearing, one very familiar male lion and a SECOND white lioness were seen mating. Reluctantly leaving the first white lioness in search of something even more spectacular, we drove the last stretch along the road until a great, fiery mane popped out of the grass, accompanied by a smaller, snowy head. Instantly, the male was recognised as one of the Trilogy males, and the lioness was identified as the other white lioness of the Giraffe Pride. If you think this is where it ends, think again. A few bouts of mating take place between the 2 lovers, snarling and growling at each other in the heat of the moment, then, just as they are about to doze...

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Amazing Game Viewing at Africa on Foot and nThambo
Dec22

Amazing Game Viewing at Africa on Foot and nThambo

Africa on Foot and nThambo Tree Camp provide Amazing Game Viewing The last few weeks have seen some truly amazing game viewing around the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve camps of Africa on Foot and nThambo Tree Camp. It started off with visiting with a pack of African Wild Dogs, a wonderful sight! They were seen on the main tarred road that runs through the Klaserie and Timbavati Reserves. Our team got to visit with them before they darted off into the bush on the prowl for a meal.       The team then came across the still body of a young female Leopard. Chloe Cooper wrote this story, with pictures by Kevin MacLaughlin, they were part of the team that found her.   Survival of the fittest means only one thing; that those who are weaker will succumb, and those who succeed will prosper. When predators take down prey, we call it the circle of life, when predators take on predators, it is a vicious and brutal fight, often to the death. Competition in the wild is rife. It’s every man for himself, and each pride for their own. This week the Greater Kruger Park lost a leopard; a young female we had seen with her kill just the night before. Her belly was still full as she lay motionless in the grass, her fur slightly dishevelled, and evidence of bite marks puncturing her neck. The two Ross Pride lionesses dominate the area around Africa on Foot and nThambo Tree Camp, and currently they are hiding one small cub. The instinct to protect their young, and the determination to eliminate the enemy would give these lions enough reason to kill a leopard in their path. Perhaps she took a turn into lion territory that night and had no chance to escape the ruthless lionesses as they set out to hunt. The next morning the lions were found triumphantly feeding on their buffalo prey, while their faded tracks led back to the lifeless young leopard in the distant grass. The recent rains have flushed the evidence from the ground, but it seems that the Klaserie Reserve saw a battle between cats in the early hours of the morning. One youthful leopard no match for a team of ferocious lionesses with a cub to protect. Sometimes jubilant, at times, devastating, the African bush is a combination of celebration and destruction. Standing next to the silent body of a leopard in all her glory was a reminder of the brutality of it all. Watch Kevin MacLaughlin’s video on this story, taking a look at the unforgiving nature of the wild, and the aftermath of...

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Kruger Lion takes on a crocodile – and Wins!
Nov27

Kruger Lion takes on a crocodile – and Wins!

Kruger Lion in action It’s not often that you see a lion take on a crocodile! These epic images come from Nick Du Plessis who is a guide in the Kruger National Park with Singita Lodges. On their Facebook page Singita says that a game drive with Nick as the guide ended their evening on a high, visiting with the Shishangaan Pride who had just caught a giraffe. This pride has 2 lionesses and 6 cubs. The next morning they headed back to the same spot only to find that the carcass of the giraffe was finished!  And right in the same area was a lone male lion eating from crocodile remains.  Nick said that there was a tussle for the giraffe remains by crocodiles, the lionesses and the male lion. He said that the lone male would have overpowered the lionesses and snatched their meal. When the crocodiles then tried to steal it from the lion, he fought them off, ultimately claiming his second meal – which lasted him 3 days. Here are some pictures that Nick...

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It’s Baby Season in Botswana!
Nov17

It’s Baby Season in Botswana!

For the last few weeks the Sun Destinations team of photographer and film maker Kevin MacLaughlin and blogger Chloe Cooper were exploring the wild and beautiful Botswana. They returned to their respective offices – Kevin to the bush at Africa on Foot, and Chloe to the office in Cape Town, and shared their amazing trip with words and pictures, showing that it really was Baby Season in Botswana! Here is what Chloe had to say, accompanied by amazing pictures taken by Kevin.   On a recent trip to Botswana, we bore witness to some of the first impalas to be born of the season, baby warthogs tearing up the ground in an excitable game of ‘tag’, and some of Africa’s fiercest predators in their cute n fluffy youth. Well, their presence at a bloody kudu kill tainted their innocence slightly, but soon their playful tug-of-war with the kudu’s ear took them right back to cub-hood. Take a look at this week’s Week in Pictures, provided by Sun Destinations’ photographer and filmmaker, Kevin MacLaughlin.     A pride of 6 cubs, 3 lionesses, and 1 dominant male lion was settled just along the main road bordering the Central Kalahari Game Reserve near Haina Kalahari Lodge in Botswana, and resting under a nice, shady tree was the glassy-eyed remains of a kudu bull. Scattered on both sides of the fence line, the pot-bellied lion cubs were in full view of our game viewer, and they were too fat to go anywhere. Two out of the 3 mothers rested on the sand road in front of us, while the black-maned male was secluded under a tree, having eaten his fill. One lioness was feasting greedily on the kudu, as was a pair of determined cubs, while the rest of the family lay uncomfortably with swollen tummies. What an incredible sight and photo opportunity with the setting Kalahari sun! After flying with Major Blue Air in a stylish 6 seater airplane over the Okavango Delta, we set off on a game drive to Mapula Lodge in a private concession of the northern Delta. On the way to the lodge, a flurry of action turned our attention to a termite mound on the left, and what we saw was a pair of warthog siblings engaging in a chase of one another. Mother warthog grazed around them without batting an eyelid and we managed to drive right up to them and watch them fly along the ground in true child-like fashion before settling down for a rest and allowing us to take a couple of photos. Camping might have been the most fun out of the...

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The King Has Spoken: nDzuti lions flee from their kill
Aug11

The King Has Spoken: nDzuti lions flee from their kill

Watching 4 sub-adult male lions gorging themselves on a buffalo carcass is a spectacular sighting in itself, but, as we always emphasise in nature: you can not predict what is going to happen. These guests were visiting nDzuti Safari Camp deep in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve of Greater Kruger. Guided by owner Bruce Meeser, the guests were led right to the site where these big males were feeding. Perfect lighting and beautiful specimens made this a safari sighting to remember. The nDzuti lions are called the River Pride, named for their beautiful territory, which encompasses the Klaserie River. As the video shows, in one swift movement, all 4 of these big males bolt from the buffalo they are eating, clearly running from something. What do 4 big male lions run from, you might ask? The king of the jungle, that’s who! With an aggressive grumble and a stampede of heavy paws, these lions take to the bush, chased by what Bruce refers to as ‘the big boy’. It is in a lion’s nature to feed himself, and it is a known fact that if the dominant male of the pride wants to eat alone, he will. Often stealing carcasses from the rest of the pride and chasing other members of his pride off the kill, the dominant male ensures he gets the prime cut. If you listen carefully to Bruce’s audio in the video, you will hear he says that these males are “getting stronger and stronger together, but they are by no means as strong as the dominant lion”. A few moments later, this dominant lion appears on the scene, and it is clear the young males know their place. What an awesome example of nature at its best, and lions at their most primal. Take a look…...

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