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Written by Isaiah Banda

Another incredible month in the Mabula Game Lodge has come and gone, leaving guests, and guides alike with special memories that will last a lifetime. Although there is something magical about winter in the bush, the beautiful greens of summer and the rich vibrancy of life across the landscape rejuvenate one’s soul. It is always so gratifying for me to spend time with wild animals.

Changes in the seasons throughout the year bring different benefits to all the organisms in the natural ecosystem. As another incredible month on Mabula Private Game Reserve comes to a close, we reflect with fondness on the extraordinary highlights shared with our guides and guests. Beyond the tangible achievements and transformations, the greatest highlight lies in sharing the beauty of our reserve with our guests and instilling a love and passion for our natural world.

The excitement of lions.

I am sure by now anyone who has been to Mabula or follows us on social media has heard of our lion cubs born late last year. It is an honour watching them grow in strength and confidence.

I left with my guests after the morning coffee heading to the south-east of the reserve to follow up on our pride with their energetic cubs. It wasn’t long before I picked up fresh tracks to follow on 100ha main road which looked like they were heading to Lake Kyle dam to have a drink. We found the pride on the road lying down, upon our arrival they stood up and started to walk away.

Behind our vehicle without noticing was the big male approaching, we drove slightly off the road to give him right of way to join his family. One of the cubs climbed to the top of a soil mound, a second noticed the one on top of the soil mound had found a stick to play with and got jealous and also climbed, soon there were three already playing with each other, but the first cub wasn’t giving up its position as king of the soil mound. The others played and rolled over, showing their freckled white tummies, vocalising and communicating like the social cats they are.

Then one of the cubs hatched a cunning plan to take over from the mound king, scrambling up from the back through the middle of a bush where an attack wasn’t expected. The two were having a bit of a fisticuffs when a lioness bared her teeth at the first cub and yanked its tail so it tumbled down off the termite mound, leaving the other cub in smug possession.

They soon lost interest in the mound and focussed their attention on a nearby tree trunk. The rest continued to practise their tripping skills by batting at the legs of one another with their paws until they fell over. They stalked and grappled and ambushed, copying what they’d seen their mothers do, without really knowing why. It is good practice for when they are older and will have to start catching their own dinner.

After about an hour of watching mother nature entertain us, I turned to my guests and asked them what they wanted to do, everyone agreed on one term of saying lets stay for a few more minutes. The two lionesses were still alert to every cracking twig and bird call, watching carefully. Soon one lioness stood up and dissapeared into the bush, as though she has heard something that caused her to go and investigate and try her luck.

We sat there with cubs and one mother and the father while the other female had gone off to investigate. Twenty minutes later the lioness returned. Now that was so emotional when the cubs saw their mother they all run towards her to greet her, including the cubs that belong to the other lioness. This was a clear indication that lions can do communal feeding and caring of all cubs within a pride.

A few minutes later she returned and called everyone to follow her and they dissapeared where their mother had come from, it was our time to go back to the lodge as well. We all had agreed to come back in the afternoon to see why the lioness had taken the cubs. Although we suspected she might have made a kill and was taking them to where she hidden it, we did not follow them as we had guests who were checking out and had to leave for the airport for their flight back home. This was indeed a beautiful farewell from our pride. Sending them home in true African style.

On the afernoon safari everyone was eager to follow up on the pride to see what were they up to. We all agreed to go back to search for lions. After a wonderful high tea, we were all set for the afternoon safari to try our luck with lions again. We picked up tracks again on orange farm main road and they were heading towards road 3. Just around the bend we found them lying down and some feeding on a zebra kill. The carcass was almost finished with only ribs and head still to go. The first one we saw was the male lying in the middle of the road with his full belly. He had clearly eaten more than what his stomach could take.

The cubs were chasing each other while some were still feeding on the carcass. It was an afternoon not to disappoint again. We watched them playing and eating before they decided to start walking again. Usually lions will not have to drink water after they have made a kill. They can go for four days without water, however in this case water was close by and they did not have to walk far for water.

We followed them all the way to Lake Kyle dam where they were heading to have to drink. Wow that was so great to see all of them drinking at the same time. What an experience it was and we were the only vehicle veiwing them.

After drinking they moved to a tree not far and it was time to rest for the night. There was no need for them to hunt as they have alrady had their meal. What an experience we had with the pride, a moment which will last for many years for our guests.

There is something special about a Mabula sunset, even though they are special already. At Mabula sunsets are different, there is real magic in them, you can feel it and the vibe is completely different. Most special about a sunset or sunrise is they are never the same, today’s sunset will not be same as tomorrow, that is what makes it so special.

What makes a Mabula sunsets even more unique is when combined with a sundowner safari stop and a drink your choice, it creates a magical opening of endless conversations about past and present safari moments. Both guides and guests meet as strangers at the start of a safari geatway and bonds and friendships form over sunset stops as recollections and memories of sightings are shared.

Until next time…
From Isaiah Banda & Mabula family.
Safari Greetings.
Photos credit to Isaiah Banda, Alexander Pouris.