Leeu Day!…That means “lion” day in Afrikaans…Love is in the air!….

Notice him licking her backside.  Hmm…

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This woodpecker stopped by for some enthusiastic pecking in a tree by the veranda. From this site“Campethera is a genus of bird in the family Picidae, or woodpeckers, that are native to sub-Saharan Africa. Most species are native to woodland and savanna rather than the deep forest, and multiple species exhibit either arboreal or terrestrial foraging strategies. Its nearest relative is the monotypic genus Geocolaptes of southern Africa, which employs terrestrial foraging and breeding strategies. They are however not close relatives of similar-looking woodpeckers in the “Dendropicos clade”.

During these holiday times in South Africa, our daily drives in Marloth Park have been filled with a mix of an abject absence of wildlife sightings to breathtaking scenes unfolding across the Crocodile River.

This male lion was cuddling up to this female.

We keep our expectations in check each time we venture out. Yesterday was no different when we took off at noon, not expecting to see much. The lack of visitors to our garden over this past week only reminds us of how determined the wildlife is to stay “undercover” when there’s an influx of holidaymakers in Marloth Park.

“There isn’t a mating season for the Lion but when there is plenty of food it is more likely to occur. The females are ready for mating when they are about four years of age. The males are mature about three-five years old. When the female is in estrus she may mate with the male more than 20 times per day. They may not even eat during this period of time. Due to so much activity, it is very often going to result in conception.”

Of course, this isn’t the case in Kruger National Park where the animals have
an area of 19,485 square kilometers (7,523 sq mi) in which to wander. Even when the holidaymakers come to explore the wildlife the animals must not feel crowded or intimidated by the excess traffic and noise as they are here in Marloth Park during holiday periods such as occurring now.

After we drove for an hour into our usual two-hour drive, we resigned ourselves that we weren’t going to see a thing…not in Marloth…not across the Crocodile River.  

Approximately 110 days after conception she will have her cubs – anywhere from 1 to 4. She will give birth in a den away from the rest of her pride. She will stay very close to the den and only hunt very small prey that she can take down on her own. This food will offer her the ability to continue producing milk for the young to consume.

But as we always say, safari luck prevails, in a matter of minutes, everything changed. We not only encountered stunning scenes within the confines of Marloth Park that we’ll share in the next few days but we were literally entranced by two outstanding sightings on the river.

Today, we’re posting the river scenes of a mating pair of lions pointed out to us by a kindly gentleman, the only person at the overlook upstream from “Two Trees” who spoke little to no English.

When trying to spot lions at the distant bank of the river, whoever sees them first has the daunting task of attempting to point them out to others who happen to come by with binoculars and cameras.  

I literally held my breath while taking these photos since we were so far away and our camera has a limited range.

Lions blend into the surrounding rocks due to possessing the exact same coloration of the rocks and dry bush. They are nearly impossible to spot with the naked eye and still difficult with binoculars and long-range cameras.

Our cameras are not of professional caliber. We had to chose lightweight cameras due to weight restrictions and the fact that both of us have bad right shoulders and can’t hold cameras with heavy lenses.  

Until camera technology improves, which we expect will transpire in years to come, we are stuck with what we have and have made every effort to do our best considering the limitations of the technology on hand.

Every few weeks the mom moves the cubs, one by one, to a new den or their scent will attract predators. When these cubs are approximately seven weeks old she’ll take them to be introduced to the remainder of the pride.

It took a while for us to spot the lions when the gentleman had difficulty describing the landmarks where they could be seen. Alas, with a little extra effort on both our parts, we saw them and could let the man continue on his way thanking him profusely in Afrikaans, although we weren’t quite sure which language he spoke.

Usually, when lions are spotted when viewing from Marloth Park, a dozen or more cars can be seen at the overlook area. Jockeying for a good position can be a challenge. But, yesterday we were the only spectators at this most convenient overlook location.

Steadying the camera is the biggest challenge. Our camera has the capability of zoom in to the opposite shore of the Crocodile River but not as far as up the steep embankment. As an amateur photographer well knows, a steady hand is required and even breathing disturbs the clarity of a scene.

She took off, out of sight, and he remained in the shade on a hot day.

I placed the camera on a space between the barbs on the barbwire fence which has an electrified fence beyond it. The electric fence is fairly easy to avoid touching when the two fences are separated by less than a foot.

Each time I pressed the shutter, I took a deep breath and held it, knowing this was the only way I knew how to steady the camera with it placed on the thin wire. 

I had no idea if the photos were good when trying to view them in the bright sun until I uploaded them to my laptop. We couldn’t have been more thrilled to get the photos we’re sharing today. Forgive the repetition. They are slightly different shots if you look closely.

She stood for a while investigating opportunities for prey while he rested and watched.

As a matter of fact, I was so thrilled when we uploaded them I placed one, the main photo here today, on my Facebook page and also the Marloth Park sighting page where we’ve had tons of “likes,” “comments” and “shares.” Thanks to all of our Facebook and Marloth Park friends for supporting our enthusiasm in sightings in the magnificent place.

Although the timing is a little off (we don’t need more photos right now) we’re still heading to Kruger as soon as we upload this post. During the holiday season, such as the current “school holidays” it seems best to go mid-week but by the weekend an additional fee and reservation will be required to gain access to the Crocodile Gate along with several other entrances many kilometers apart.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow, looking forward to sharing some new and exciting scenes, followed up by whatever we’re gifted to see on today’s self-drive safari in Kruger National Park.

Be well. Be happy!

Photo from one year ago today, September 26, 2017:

Rapids in the Rio Grande River in Costa Rica. We’d have stopped for a video or better shot but there was no shoulder at any point on the single-lane bridge and other vehicles were waiting to cross. For more photos, please click here.

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