Early February saw myself visiting Pilanesberg National Park. A place that will always feel like home to me as this is where I began my guiding journey in 2017. As I rolled through the hills and valleys of the ancient volcanic complex, I found myself reminiscing about special encounters experienced in the past. This is the usual case when I visit ‘The Gem’.
Above left: A Burchell’s Coucal grabs itself a snack.
Above right: A Helmeted Guineafowl finds itself in a sea of yellow flowers.
I couldn’t believe how the terrain had been transformed over the last few years, with more than average rainfall reinvigorating the bushveld with lush greenery and seasonal pans dotted all over (thanks La Nina). This of course made finding game quite difficult. With this, comes other opportunities with wild flowers, birdlife, cloudy skies and framing subjects with foliage becoming a focus. There was also a bit of luck and persistence involved with finding cats…
Cyclone Freddy and a Special Reunion
Did I mention we’ve had a lot of rain? I planned a trip to Central Kruger for the end of February. Little did I know it would coincide with the edge of Cyclone Freddy. The cyclone has broken all kinds of records with most of it sadly affecting Madagascar and Mozambique. I didn’t hesitate continuing with the trip as it looked like it was going to be a day of rain at most. I was wrong. Although, it wasn’t anything like our neighbouring countries were experiencing.
Rivers were flowing like I had never seen before. With serious flooding just weeks earlier, the water table was high and any serious amount of rain meant a repeat of rushing rivers. Most dirt roads were closed as a result and I was limited to the main tarred routes. This didn’t limit the amazing encounters that Kruger never fails to provide, with a special reunion being the main event. The video below describes it best!
Above left: The white lioness in 2019 as a cub at Shindzela Tented Camp, Timbavati.
Above right: The same lioness in 2023 near Orpen, KNP.
This lioness is one of just 3 wild white lions roaming their natural habitat today, and the only female.
White lions are leucistic, which means that a recessive gene mutation actually makes their fur white, while their skin and eyes retain their natural pigment.The first white lion was recorded in Timbavati, Greater Kruger in the late 1930’s where this lioness also happens to originate from. The genes are still present in some of the prides there today and every so often a white lion is born and miraculously survives to adulthood!
The name Timbavati fittingly means, ‘The place where something sacred came down to Earth from the Heavens’.
The other two white lions are a similarly aged male from the same pride and another older male born in the Lebombo area close to Mozambique, who has successfully established a territory with other males.
It truly is a sacred moment to witness such a beautiful anomaly in the wild and it’s one I’ll hold with me forever. The photographs are photographs, but the feeling is what I always remember and crave over and over again.
Here are a few more moments from the trip.
Thank you for taking the time and as always, stay wild!