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First Lion Spotting

After a much needed amazing night of sleep in our luxurious king bed, we awoke to our guide Gareth’s friendly knock on the door, implying that it was time for another day of adventure at Kirkman’s Kamp. Gathering our camera equipment and, believe it or not, winter coats and hats, we headed up to the lodge for breakfast. Our butler, Sam, greeted us with a smile and showed us to our seats where we had coffee, juice and biscuits waiting for us. My husband and I each ordered the Eggs Benedict, which may have been the best we’ve ever had, and after quickly eating, we jumped into the safari vehicle for another morning of excitement.

Beautiful Cuisine at our hotel
Beautiful Cuisine at our hotel (Emily Steinberg)

Gareth mentioned there was rumors of a lion just a few hundred yards from the lodge this morning and that really got our blood pumping. We were bumping along through the bush to the dry river bed of the Sand River when we heard it: the unmistakable roar of a male lion. As our safari vehicle rushed towards the noise, in the distance we saw two other vehicles headed the same way. Everyone was on a mission to get a glimpse of this majestic beast and for a few minutes we forgot about our freezing fingers and toes as the adrenaline kicked in. Two apprehensive minutes later and there he was. Breath visible in the cold morning air and belly bulging from the morning meal, the last of the big five was walking directly at us. The male lion eyed us up and down as he slowly walked by, mostly without concern, and found way his to a patch of morning sunlight where he could lay down and digest. As we watched him relax after an apparently busy morning, he started letting our bone shaking, guttural roars over and over again. We were told this was him calling for his brother, whom he was planning on investigating a rival male with later that morning.

After we picked our jaws up from the ground, word came over the radio that there was a fresh kill just a mile away: a water buffalo this male lion and his brother had taken down the day before. Gareth didn’t hesitate as he hit the gas and off we were to check out the situation. As we arrived at the kill, we noticed vultures overhead and periodic roars from within the tall grass of the African budge. It turned out there were two female lioness and the rival male lion in question, all sharing the carcass of the water buffalo. Although the smell was a bit gut wrenching, to view big cats such as these coming together without (much) conflict was a sight to see. The original male lion and his brother did eventually arrive but luckily they weren’t too bothered by the rival feeding and everyone got a fair meal.

Lunch that day left our bellies full as ever and we were fortunately able to sneak in a nap before the evening game drive, which is just what we needed after a morning of such excitement. This evening's game drive consisted of a seemingly never-ending herd of water buffalo trotting across the road, multiple herds of zebra (pronounced like “Debra”, as the tracker pointed out that “You don’t say DEEbra do you?”) and a purple and orange sunset that was unmistakable African.

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