Kruger Timbavati

Trails Camp

Lioness on Foot in the Timbavati


JP de Bruyn


February 16, 2022

It was just another chilly morning in the bush. As usual, we had our coffee and tea around dawn while we waited for the sun to rise. Just enough for us to see what was going on in the gradually lessening shadows. We left in the morning on foot and nothing was out of the norm. It was the same wonderful landscape we walked in everyday. But today something happened that we thought we would never experience.

As we left camp we started to make our way towards a small dam just to the side of camp. This is usually what we do in the morning as we go to the water to see what animals have been visiting. So just as usual, we walk towards the small dam not thinking much, as it’s only an 8 minute walk from camp.

We walked through a small mopane thicket and turned left onto the dam road. That’s when we just stopped dead in our tracks. Straight ahead of us were two lion cubs playing around the water. Wow! We just stood still watching the cubs for a moment or two, when we started to think…where is the mother?

It didn’t take long before we managed to spot the lioness. Unfortunately, she had already spotted us first. Everything at that point just went utterly quiet. When we saw the lioness lying in the bush to the left of us, and the cubs straight ahead, we knew what was coming. We slowly started to walk backwards to give some space between us and the lioness. That’s when we heard this loud noise, it sounded just like somebody was on a Harley Davidson. The lioness was warning us that we better not get any closer.

We didn’t need telling. But before we could back away more, she came bolting towards us. People always tell you that you shouldn’t run in the bush. I found out that day that, at the speed that the lioness was charging towards us, you dont even have time to think about running. Luckily, she stopped about three metres from us.

So she just wanted to make it clear that she didn’t have the intention to harm us. She just wanted to warn us to stay away from her cubs, like any mother would do. After she warned us with a mock charge, she turned around and trotted towards her cubs. She picked one of them up in her mouth and the family made their way back into the bush.

We left the lioness with her cubs and moved away to find that there were lots of vultures in the sky not too far from camp. We started to walk that way trying to see what was going on. On the way there we bumped into a hyena that appeared to be searching for something. We just watched him for a bit to try and figure out what he was looking for. Then the wind picked up and we got this smell of something rotten in the bush.

At that moment we realized why we found the lioness and cubs by the dam. They’d made a kill somewhere around our camp, but where? We tried to follow the smell but the wind would drop and the smell would disappear. That’s when we heard that sound of a Harley Davidson again.

Straight in front of us, under the weeping wattle tree, were four lionesses and the two cubs. Busy devouring a wildebeest. We just stopped and watched them for a minute or two. However we decided not to chance our luck with these cats anymore, but to rather head back to camp.

That astounding walk is a moment in time that will never be forgotten. Yes, we cannot forget the rush of fear when she charged us. But equally memorable was the beauty of a good mother nurturing and protecting her young.

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