Phinda: A Black Rhino and a Lion Pick on a Cheetah Family

Andrew’s Report:

We were all still excited from yesterday’s bumper day in Phinda when we set out this morning shortly before sunrise. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find that male lion again we decided. So we headed off to where he had chased the cheetahs yesterday and quickly found his tracks.

We followed the spoor way up north, right into the Marsh area of the reserve and there we found him! He was relaxing on a dam wall, with back lighting provided by a dramatic sky behind him. We stopped with him for ages to capture some great silhouette shots against that sky.

 

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While photographing the lion we noticed a family of black rhinos close by. A male, female and a calf were wandering around in a nearby clearing. We moved across to join them and spent about ninety minutes with them, capturing numerous images.

 

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Then a family of three cheetahs arrived in the clearing. A female with her two subadult cubs came sauntering along. What an amazing sight – three black rhinos and three cheetahs in the same area, and in the same frame as we took full advantage of the situation.

Then suddenly, and we could not determine why it was, the female rhino took umbrage at the cheetahs’ presence – and charged! We watched in amazement as the cheetahs scampered away to escape the huge lumbering beast bearing down on them in fury! The rhino gave up the chase when the cheetahs disappeared into the long grass, and she returned to her family, checking occasionally to ensure that the cats did not return.

Meanwhile the male lion was still on the dam wall, watching this impressive scene unfold in front of him with great interest.

 

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He climbed down from the wall and loped off in the direction of the cheetahs. He found the family before long, and immediately gave chase. Once again the hapless family had to scamper out of harms way! We, of course, were delighted with the photos we captured of these scenes!

We decided to go in search of the cheetah family we had seen yesterday and found them lying peacefully on a termite mound. We remained with them until the heat of the midday sun drove them into cooler areas under some shrubs and well within some long grass.

This was an ideal time for us to break for lunch as well.

This afternoon we returned to the Marsh area to try and sight the resident pride of lions we had seen yesterday. The two females and three subadults were still resting and showed no sign of activity – well, for a while.

Then two wildebeest bulls started a sparring session in a small clearing about 100 meters away from the resting pride. This was too much for the lions to ignore, and one of the lionesses slowly got up. She crouched, and using tufts of longer grass and small bushes for cover she crept close to the wildebeest. They were so intent on asserting their male dominance that they did not notice her at all. Our cameras were ready, capturing every second of the ever increasing tension. We could almost hear our own hearts beating.

The lioness reached the very edge of the small clearing, and as she prepared to leap, hind legs making that catlike wiggle just before an attack, one of the wildebeest finally saw her and gave a loud alarm call. A split second later saw him and his erstwhile adversary turn and flee to safety.

The subadult lions now felt that they should imitate the adult and practice their stalking techniques and we spent the remainder of the afternoon with them as they crouched, stalked each other in the long grass, and tumbled around – showing that they, too, could be proficient hunters … one day.

A tired but very happy group returned to the camp this evening, and as we enjoy the sounds and smells of the bush, we are eagerly anticipating another day …