Mala Mala the best of them all

Mala Mala the best of them all

Sara • 06/12/2024


A Day of Pursuit in the Wild….

The afternoon sweltered under a scorching sun as we embarked on our quest to spot some rhinos and complete our sighting of the Big Five. Eager and hopeful, we headed to the eastern side of the reserve, near the expansive Kruger National Park, scanning the plains for our elusive horned friends, well aware of the dangers they faced. 

Our tracker, Bens, with his keen eyes and seasoned instincts, quickly picked up the tracks of a mother rhino and her calf, barely six months old. The little one was just visible above the tall grasses. As we watched, the calf, sensing our presence, darted back into the safety of the thicket, its mother close behind, vanishing before we could follow. 

Undeterred, we continued our exploration, stopping at intervals to marvel at the wonders of the bush, including a large strangle fig. We discussed its fascinating interaction with its environment and the impact it had on the surrounding wildlife. Our journey wasn’t in vain, for soon after, we encountered another rhino with her older calf, this one more relaxed and visible in the open. We spent a delightful moment with them before they too disappeared into the denser bush, possibly spurred by the ongoing dehorning efforts to combat poaching. 

As evening approached, we arrived at the Kambula pride’s location, greeted by the sight of cubs playfully exploring the branches of trees, their curiosity piqued by every scent and sound. They soon rejoined the adult lions—lionesses and males alike—preparing for the night’s hunting activities. 

Male lion by night

The night fell, illuminated only by the Milky Way, as we listened to the lionesses keenly tuning into the sounds of a nearby rutting impala, strategising their next hunt. Our attention, however, was soon diverted to a leopard spotted in the distance, skilfully feeding on its kill atop a tree. 

Bens, our guide, expertly led us closer to the leopard, anticipating that the nearby lions might be attracted to the carcass. His prediction was spot on. Within minutes, the entire pride surrounded the tree. One particularly brave lioness began to climb, aiming to snatch the leopard’s prize. The leopard, desperate to save her meal, ascended higher, but in her haste, the kill dropped and dangled precariously from a branch just out of the lioness’s reach. 

We watched with bated breath as the lioness made several awkward attempts to retrieve the meal. If only she had ten more inches or the tongue of a chameleon, she might have succeeded. Instead, her efforts resembled a clumsy dance, more akin to a hippo attempting ballet than the graceful poise of a leopard. 

After numerous attempts and a nerve-wracking display of acrobatics, she finally conceded defeat. The descent was another spectacle, her bulky frame awkwardly negotiating each step down the tree, her back legs comically flailing above her head at times. With one final, desperate leap, she landed face-first into a bush, fortunately unscathed but visibly resigned to her fate. 

Shaking off the dust and leaves, she rejoined her pride, perhaps contemplating the merits of her adventurous climb and resolving that next time, she might think twice before ascending so high without a better plan. As for us, we headed back to the lodge, our spirits high from the day’s adventures, ready for a well-deserved rest and eager for whatever the next day would bring in the wild.