Travel

Travel: No one sleeps when the white lion hunts for a mate

A handsome beast: the male white lion.
A handsome beast: the male white lion. SHIRLEY SINCLAIR

WE HEARD him long before we saw him.

The deep, reverberating roar followed by several huff, huff, huffs woke us from our light slumber.

He was close. Very close.

No, the lion doesn't sleep tonight. And, apparently, neither do we. In fact, he was right behind our Gondwana Lodge suite, calling for his female mate, and wasn't going anywhere.

By morning, talk around the South African Sanbona Wildlife Reserve breakfast buffet was that the male white lion had only just left our area.

Our safari ranger Marco Fitchet soon confirmed the night's excitement, pointing out the lion's paw prints in the sand by the road, heading west out of our lodge. Within minutes, we had heard about a sighting on the communications radio and headed with haste past the big dam and towards the hills.

We could see him from afar - his white coat unmistakable against the green of the low-shrubbed, semi-arid Succulent Karoo landscape. As we drew closer, we took up position on the road in front of him. And waited. He was on a mission, having already covered just over 3km in about 50 minutes. While not running or bounding, he kept a steady pace: every step was measured and determined.

Then - safari gold. He came up the road and crossed right in front of our Toyota LandCruiser. I was seated on the right side, directly behind the driver, and couldn't believe my eyes when he walked right beside me. Only the body of the open vehicle separated us.

He nonchalantly passed by, deeming the familiar vehicle and its seven occupants no threat. I was snapping away so quickly that my digital camera couldn't keep up and was giving the "busy" signal.

Lean, strong, with a beautifully coiffured mane, the bold big cat indeed reigns over this kingdom. As one who grew up with the Kimba the White Lion cartoon on TV, this meeting of human and big cat seemed surreal.

Sanbona, in Barrydale, offers one of the closest safari opportunities to Cape Town - about a three-hour drive away, in the heart of the Western Cape's Little Karoo.

With the spectrum of majestic Karoo landscapes within its boundaries, the privately owned wildlife reserve is reached from Route 62 - the world's longest wine route - and lies at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains. At 54,000ha, the massive property is as large as Eungella National Park near Mackay and boasts the big five (a hunting term given to the five most dangerous animals hunted on foot). The big five in this case also includes a pride of lions, made up of members with the recessive white gene as well as the tawny variety.

Over three nights and four days at our all-inclusive lodge, we managed to encounter four of the big five: African elephants, lions, rhino, and Cape buffalo. We only missed the leopards that generally live in the mountains.

Another favourite with tourists, the cheetahs, also proved elusive - an unusual occurrence since they aren't shy and tend to keep to favoured territory.

But our six safari drives (including spotlighting at nightfall) and boat cruise more than made up for that with hippopotamus in and out of the water plus a prolific number of eland and springbok, giraffes and zebras (Cape Mountain and Plains), Chacma baboons, small dassie (its closest living relative is the elephant) and oryx.

A black-backed jackal, a large grey mongoose and red hartebeest were a bonus, along with the rare thrill of seeing relocated kudu bound out of their transport vehicle towards freedom.

The experience of sitting on our first-floor balcony with a glass of wine, watching giraffes and their companion zebras nibble away at the trees and undergrowth, will stay with me forever. The white lions, however, were what I came to see.

Ranger Marco wittily describes female white lions as being like "Scandinavian supermodels: blonde, blue eyes and long legs". But for me, the male white lion rules. What a handsome beast he is.

Topics:  africa, lions, south africa, travel, weekend magazine


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Beach shacks unsalvageable: owner

Beach shack at 1674 David Low Way Coolum Beach,

Owner of beach shacks reveals that he tried to save them

Coast surfing star bewildered by scoring as title hopes fade

NOT HAPPY: Julian Wilson bowed out of the Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles, essentially ending his world title quest.

Coast surfing star bewildered by scoring as world title hopes fade.

Local Partners

'UNREAL': Paddler videos moment whale swims under his board

ZIGGY Alberts will never forget his morning paddle to Old Woman Island nor photographer Jodie Price will ever have better timing.

Residents' protests fail to stop community centre shift

Coolum Community Centre/ old Coolum Cinema/ Coolum School of Arts.

Council officers recommended the centre be moved

Beach shacks unsalvageable: owner

Beach shack at 1674 David Low Way Coolum Beach,

Owner of beach shacks reveals that he tried to save them

Coast surfing star bewildered by scoring as title hopes fade

NOT HAPPY: Julian Wilson bowed out of the Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles, essentially ending his world title quest.

Coast surfing star bewildered by scoring as world title hopes fade.

Festivals are done and the clean-up has begun

NOT FAZED: Maroochy Music and Visual Arts Festival director James Birrell and his clean-up helpers from Party Bins said they had already \"broken the back\" of the clean-up on Sunday afternoon.

Festival organisers are winding down after a huge weekend of fun

Peregian's market gain to open soon

Peregian Village Market is set to be opened by Mayor Tony Wellington on Wednesday.

Peregian's new market force

World's toughest smoking laws could get tougher

New smoking laws came into effect in Queensland from Thursday.

New smoking laws 'world's toughest' but harsher laws could follow

Classic car auction draws buyers from US, Dubai

"He wants everyone to enjoy the cars, the collection got too big'

Lady Gaga confirms Super Bowl show

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga to perform in coveted spot

Girls actors give emotional tributes to hit show

Actor Allison Williams

Actors farewell smash hit HBO show Girls after six seasons

Janet Jackson's pregnancy is 'best thing'

Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson can't wait to become a mum

Jay Z signs two-year movie and TV deal

Rapper Jay Z

Rapper Jay Z has signed a television and movie deal

Nowhere to Hyde: Matt Nable is Australia's man in demand

Matt Nable stars as Detective Gary Hyde in the TV series Hyde & Seek.

NABLE returns to the small screen amidst busy film work.

Marvel's Luke Cage S1E7: Manifest review

Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage. Supplied by Netflix.

*WARNING: spoilers if you haven't seen Marvel's Luke Cage*

Beach-side real estate starts at $85k on Fraser Coast

HERVEY BAY REAL ESTATE: You can buy this townhouse in Scarness for under $300k.

Live your beach-living dream locally.

$40million hotel, shops development project for Mackay

Mt Pleasant hotel and retirement accommodation, proposed at 194-202 Malcomson St.

$40m development to take Mackay to 'the next level'

Property 200m from ocean selling for just over $100K

BEACHCOMBER PARK: Work has started on a new $19.2 million development at Toogoom.

The estate's developer is offering huge discounts for early buyers.

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

First stages of $25 million housing development underway

New development on Madsen Rd - The Springs.

The blocks of land are much bigger than usual

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.