Kat’s update on lion monitoring in the Kruger Park for the week 3-7 September 2012

Monday morning for the week brought with it guests; A family from Johannesburg. They were one of the few people to have won the rangers raffle and their prize was to go monitoring with me. So on the first night of monitoring, we went searching for N’waswitshaka. It has been a while since we located or s…een this pride and so I personally was excited and as for my new friends, they were evidently excited too. As always we picked up signal down by the river. For this night we did not see the lions but got blessed by their vocalising through the night. This was however until there was a drastic change in weather and the night became a dark and silent place with crazy winds. On our way back Archie shouted stop and the smile on his face could have only revealed two male lions on the side of the road. As usual the moment was short lived as the males got up and left but the warm feeling remained. We then went looking for Skukuza. These guys have currently split, word has it that the four young males remain with one of the females in Sabie, while the collared girl has abandoned the pride for some action. With her are three males, a litter of a few years ago from the pride. We did not get a visual but felt her presence which was shared by the Impala barking. Archie and Don were happy to be out but could not hide the frustration of not getting a visual. All I could offer for comfort is “welcome to monitoring, we have ourselves here, a typical night of monitoring.”
Tuesday night was another day; the weather was not looking good with a chance of rain. We drove down to Jock where we were able to find the pride lying on the access road. The cheers did not last long when they moved off. In attempts to cheer again, we called with a buffalo in distress but these guys just flat out ignored us and went further and further away from us. A decision was made to drive up and try locating N’waswitshaka again and along the way we saw three females that had just fed, they were carrying their red painted heads low as they got a wash from the rain. On this night we had Archie’s wife and son, they were so excited it just brought light to the whole trip. We did not gain visual of N’waswitshaka but the night was awesome regardless. As we approached the camp gate we stopped to watch a white tailed mongoose feeding. This was a beautiful moment; they had never seen one before.
This would be the last day for the family, Archie was confident that this day would bring more luck. In the back were Don’s wife and another one of Archie’s Sons. We were driving down to Kraglyn when half way to Kraglyn I realised I had forgotten the torch and had to turn back. We then decided to just go look for N’waswitshaka. Driving down watergat road, hearts were racing as the signal got stronger and stronger. I stopped to check for direction and as I got back in the car I had three thrilled faces awaiting feedback. I smiled and said, “we go forward, they must be about 500m away”. This had been my statement for the past days and no one was sure whether to have hope or not. We drove 400m and 100 m ahead we saw shadows on the road, Archie shouted with excitement “lion :-)”. Finally we get to see the pride. They were impressed and gave me a compliment for taking them to the lions. This ever awesome moment did not last long as the lions kept on their journey, four females followed by seven cubs of different ages, then lastly three adult males. The moment lasted long enough to have the family happy and high throughout the night. The night was not over, we went looking for Skukuza pride that were on holiday by Tinga Nerina concession. We searched and got them close to us before we called, within five minutes they were around us; three males and the collared female. Had this been a trampoline, I swear the family would have been doing summersaults. The lions then moved on and it was time to take the family back to camp. After saying goodbye, I carried on to Kraglyn where I spent the night waiting for them but they remained in the river bed.

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