Exeter River Lodge is situated within the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, renowned for having the best Big Five game-viewing in South Africa, if not the world.The Reserve is famous for its incredible leopard sightings. The Sabi Sand leopards have grown accustomed to safari vehicles, thereby permitting close up sightings and extraordinary photographic opportunities.
A ONCE IN TEN LIFETIMES SIGHTING!
So this is a big, big one! It was an afternoon drive. My tracker and I decided to go look for the Ottawa Pride which consists of three lionesses. On the way to where they were left that morning we found the tracks going north-east. It did not take us long before we found them lying up under some magic guarris about a kilometer from where they had been earlier. All the lionesses had their heads up which was great because it was still hot and I fully expected them to be fast asleep. They were just off the road and by staying on the road I pulled up right next to them. We were there for a couple of minutes when one of the lionesses started licking her rear end and then the unthinkable happened. She gave birth right in front of us. We watched the whole thing. She licked the cub clean and then ate the umbilical cord. The whole process took no more than ten minutes. Then the next unbelievable thing happened. She got up and just left. The other lionesses both got up, licked the cub in turn and followed the mother. It was clear that the mother was on a mission as she walked very fast, as if she wanted to get to a previously-chosen den site to give birth to the rest of her cubs. Unfortunately I could not follow as she went into Singita. It was quite disturbing to leave the cub alone but I hoped that at some point during the night the mother might have returned to find her youngster and take it back to the rest of her litter. It is hard to understand why all this happened, I can only think that the birth of the first cub took her by surprise and that she did not want to give birth to the rest of the cubs in such an exposed location and so she made the decision to sacrifice one cub for the well-being of the others. I never go on drive with a camera and for the first time in 12 years of guiding I really wished I had one. How many people have ever seen a wild lion giving birth a couple of meters away from a game viewer in the open. Wow, what a sighting!