Finally, one sunlit evening, the spell is broken. We see lions up close. Very close. So close that a large male rises from knee-high grass beside the vehicle as we approach another male and a lioness down a track. He glares as we beat a few metres’ retreat, then sinks down and disappears.
The animals’ camouflage is unsettling. Huge elephants take a few steps into the bush and are lost from view. Giraffes walk out onto tracks where there were only trees when we passed seconds earlier. Did we really just see a lion, or is his golden mane just dry grass shuffling in the breeze?
The bush that often seems utterly empty is anything but. Unseen eyes are there, watching. And some are hungry. The inevitable pitstops behind bushes out on the reserve are taken uneasily.
But for the next few days, the Pidwa lion pride at least remains in open view. Two males with dark manes, two lionesses and three cubs. We go to the Lilypan waterhole every dawn and every dusk to watch them, a leonine feast at last for my hungry eyes.
Askari Wilderness Conservation Program, Pidwa Wilderness Reserve, Limpopo Province, South Africa
Four weeks’ stay about $A2200 (depending on exchange rate). Getting there: Domestic flight or bus to Hoedspruit, the nearest town, from Johannesburg or Tambo international airport. Visit: askariwcp.com
RACV Travel Insurance
Children are covered free when accompanied by a parent or grandparent. Details: racv.com.au/insurance