The Super Mom of the Kalahari

When we read books about lions, books that have taken months and years to compile using research painstakingly conducted over generations, we still don’t often come across stories about these incredible beasts like the one I am going to describe here.

When we read about lions, we are told that on average they will give birth to approximately 2-4 litters and seldom more than that. A healthy lioness in the prime of her life, will usually have around 4 cubs in a litter, whilst older lionesses generally have less. Most lion prides consist of more than one lioness, and these females are often related to one another as mother, daughter, sister or cousin.

It is also well documented that mature enough lionesses in a pride will synchronise their oestrus cycles, breeding and birthing in order to have cubs simultaneously. In so doing, the survival rate of all cubs becomes greater. Interestingly, females in the pride will readily treat all similar aged cubs as their own. They will groom, look after and even nurse cubs that belong to their sister, cousin, mother, aunt or grandmother as they would their own.

Currently, in the southern parts of the Kalahari’s semi-arid desert, (often referred to as the “Green Kalahari”) lies a special tract of land known as Tswalu Kalahari Reserve. This is the largest privately owned wilderness area in South Africa and it is here, that a magical story is currently unfolding.

The area is home to a resident pride of lions consisting of 3 adult lionesses and their sub-adult offspring. Late in 2016, the sub-adults, were naturally forced to leave their birth territory and create their own future in other parts of the reserve. Of the 3 remaining females – an elderly lion has begun to spend a lot of her time on her own leaving the remaining 2 adult lionesses, to continue the prides legacy.

An adult lioness leads the way for her youngsters, who are soon to leave and become nomadic.

One of the last occasions that these lions were all seen together before the sub-adults were forced to leave their mothers.

Soon after the sub-adults left their mothers, the lionesses showed signs of pregnancy and in September of 2016, welcomed new cubs into the world. Each lioness had her own litter, 4 to one lioness and 3 to the other. It was a remarkable time and I was fortunate enough to be there to witness the cubs, in their den, nursing from their mothers.

Fast forward 4 months and disaster strikes. The budding young pride was faced with a terrible dilemma when one of the adult lionesses tragically passed away. Her death came as a great loss to the pride and more importantly to the small cubs she left behind. At the time of her death, her cubs were still being weaned and were certainly not able to fend for themselves yet. This left the last remaining lioness with a high burden, to take on the role of surrogate mother to the orphaned cubs in addition to sustaining the lives of her own litter. Seven hungry mouths to feed on her own, in a vast unforgiving wilderness.

The last remaining lioness had been left with the task of raising a litter of 7 on her own.

Having been away from Tswalu for a period, I had no idea how this extraordinary lioness and her “double litter” were doing. So when I returned to Tswalu recently to do some private guiding, I really wanted to see for myself and spent hours searching high and low for the pride in the mountains and hills. Eventually we managed to find them early one morning. It was such a special sighting to witness this incredible lion interacting with her astonishing  family.

They had been feeding on a kill somewhere close by and were on their way to a watering hole to quench their thirst. Slowly all the lions filtered out onto the road, and one by one we counted… All 7 had survived and flourished! 7 healthy, beautiful lion cubs, with their superhero mom/surrogate mom, leading them to water. It is was a moment that will stick with me for many years to come and thankfully we have the pictures and videos to remind us. We will watch eagerly from the sidelines as the next chapter of this  unbelievable story unfolds.

We came around the corner only to find the single lioness and all of the cubs, still alive and well.

Each cub has developed their own character and individuality.

Their boisterous nature was so contagious that we laughed and sighed as they played in front of us.

Such a story will hold its place in my memory for a long time to come!

I look forward to visiting Tswalu again soon, to continue to follow this formidable lioness and her seven amazing cubs. Life in the wild is nothing if not unpredictable, so we know that this story is not over yet. They undeniably will be faced with many more hardships in the future. I truly hope that the resolve, strength and effort this lioness has shown is rewarded with all 7 surviving to adulthood.

To go and watch the video of the pride, click the link below:

Written, photographed and filmed by: Mike Sutherland

The Spirit Of Safari

A safari is an experience. One that requires a big investment of your time. Time to plan, to research, to figure out what the best trip will be. It requires endless hours of waiting, and longing for the moment when you step off the plane, onto African soil and begin to feel it’s magic. This may all sound quite daunting, but we will guide you every step of the way. Safari Architects will get you to the places you want to go and deliver the Spirit Of Safari, in the most enchanting way possible.

When visualizing your ultimate safari getaway, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, it’s the wildlife. The notion of getting up close and personal with a large male lion roaring across the savannah or a towering giraffe gently moving over the plains. Do you picture a million beasts, charging their way through a crocodile infested waterway or a mother leopard gently grooming the dirty coat of her young cub?

There is so much more to being on safari, than just wildlife. For me, it is the Spirit Of Safari that is the most important thing.

This ‘Spirit’ we speak of is a holistic experience. A top to bottom, all inclusive, rounded journey involving many facets. We are on safari to bear witness to incredible spectacles of nature that play out in front of our eyes; to learn and to understand. But what we do not realize initially is the important role of the entire travel experience. Here are a few of the many aspects of the spirit of safari:

The Welcome:

Picture yourself, after a long journey from many miles away, cramped on a plane, crossing oceans, landing on African soil and being met with a big smile, a hearty handshake and a refreshing drink. We all know, first impressions are lasting ones, and such a welcome puts you right at ease from the outset.

The people and the smiles are not easily forgotten after your trip is done.

Gin and tonic can be enjoyed at any time of the day on safari.

Mornings are often early but worth every moment.

The journey:

There are many ways to travel within our African borders, but nothing can compare to boarding your own private plane and setting off on the journey of a lifetime. Your own guide and pilot are with you each step of the way, introducing you to the wonders of every destination. Guides and trackers on the ground work tirelessly to create lasting memories and educate guests about each part of a particular place – its diversity, fauna and flora, culture and people.

The journey is not merely about the travel… it’s imperative to recognize your own journey. To understand what you expected to gain and where you end up. How this experience will leave you forever changed.

A scene that some dream of witnessing at least once in their lifetime.

Moments like this are not uncommon, if you chose the right place to visit.

Winding through the bush in search of something special. Around each corner, a new surprise.

From lions to dung beetles, it’s all in a day’s safari.

To watch the sunrise at the start of the day, at peace in the wilderness, is worth the early rise.

Moments are often overwhelming.

The staff:

One of the most important parts of any new destination and unknown place is the staff that works there. In Africa, hospitality is our home language. We live and we breathe it. At each destination we visit, the people are the glue that holds the lodges together. They embody the spirit of each place and they make it their mission to familiarise each guest with the customs of the locals ensuring that visitors feel harmoniously integrated with their new surroundings.

The experience of local guides is unmatched.

Trackers form a very integral role in the safari experience in South Africa. Their knowledge of the land and animals heighten each moment.

Nothing can end a day on safari better than a surprise drink stop in the middle of nowhere.

Enjoy a morning coffee after some exciting game viewing.

Some lodges provide experiential talks about the history of the lodge, the people who work there and their integration into the surrounding lands.

The culture and community:

Once you have been exposed to the incredible wildlife, met amazing people and tasted food to blow you away, you may experience the secret element that some lodges have harnessed which heightens each experience and empowers those involved. At each destination on a multi country safari, one would be faced with a variety of African cultures and communities of people who have grown up on the land that we as visitors, now explore in search of wildlife. The lodges and these communities are at one with each other and share a mutual benefit from eco-tourism in the form of safaris. It is the single most important part of the longevity and sustainability of this industry. Whether it is the Maasai practicing the “Adumu,” the well-known jumping dance, or a Shangaan grandmother telling stories through song; guests are shown the true meaning of what it is to be African and the importance of the cultural heritage of these lands.

One of the most iconic African mammals, the Southern Giraffe.

No better way to enjoy a story and learn about the local people.

Traditions of dancing and singing go hand-in-hand with any African experience.

The opportunities given to local people surrounding these wilderness areas are helping them everyday to grow into custodians of the natural world.

Shields and spears are now mere adornments impersonating old warriors which these local people adore.

Moments etched in our memory forever.

The community spirit at each destination is felt through every part of the experience.

Adamu… the jumping warrior dance of the enigmatic Masai tribe.

The fire and the stars:

There is a particular sentiment that is associated with a campfire and a starry night. The stillness of the air and the sounds of nature fill your mind while you ponder your existence (a safari has a way of doing this to us all). You begin to realize that there is a deeper significance in this experience, one you never knew existed. The fire is a time for storytelling, for laughter and for reminiscing, and each night is enjoyed in such a manner. Studies show that sitting next to a crackling fire lowers blood pressure and puts the body at ease. So essentially you will be doing yourself a disservice by missing out on this.

Dine under the stars, around open fires and indulge in the local cuisine.

Choirs of voices, dancing and drums beat into the early evening.

Enjoying a meal among friends and family in a magical setting, outdoors, around the fire.

Under canvas, safaris allow time for storytelling and family.

The exclusivity:

This is an added bonus to any luxury travel itinerary but one that is sometimes overlooked. When reading this, just picture yourself on safari with your family or friends with the complete flexibility to do what your heart desires. A vehicle to yourself. A private guide. Flying from destination to destination in your own plane on your own schedule. Endless indulgence from the food selections to the luxurious suites. This is the way a safari needs to be enjoyed. Tailor made to suits your needs.

Multiple country safaris will take you to the most incredible places. From the sand dunes of Sossusvlei to the waterlogged flats of the Okavango Delta.

An unexpected surprise on your way home to the lodge.

For your time at a lodge, you can follow the story of nature and how everything fits together as one.

A meal is never spared whilst on safari and you can enjoy each delectable course from start to end.

Walking safaris allow you to immerse yourself in the wilds of Africa. Camping in luxury but living with your feet on the earth.

The wide open spaces:

There are few places in the world where one can still wander and be free. Places where moments seem to drift by in the tranquility of nature. It is the vastness of these wilderness areas, the wide-open spaces that allow those who visit them to be moved in a way that cannot be explained; rejuvenating the soul and healing the mind. Africa has some of the last remaining vast expanses that are untouched and waiting to be explored.

A lone Masai warrior walks towards his destiny and the wide open spaces of East Africa.

The rolling plains of Tanzania and the Serengeti.

Cape Point from atop Table Mountain. Not many places shout ‘space and freedom’ like this incredible scene.

The vineyards of Franschoek. Lets explore…

Your time:

As people, we are all different. Different in the way we interact with others and gather energy. Time is a key factor for any safari and should not be overlooked. Time with animals, sitting on a safari vehicle, time spent together with loved ones in a foreign place. Or just the thrill of time spent on your own. On safari, there is time to be excited, time to learn, there will be time to laugh, time to eat and time to listen. Most importantly, there just be time to rejuvenate and unwind. It is very important to be aware of the importance of time and to ensure you take advantage of every moment.

Once in a lifetime experiences with family and friends.

Each animal has a story, each pride has their fight.

There are no limits on safari. If you want to play cricket in the river, then lets play cricket in the river!

To go on safari is not merely to go in search of animals. It is much bigger than that. It is the culmination of many individual components, working together in harmony to unite and give you an incredible feeling you never knew you wanted. It stems from an open mind and a willingness to take each experience and revere it. Each one will be different, so it is important not to compare; each one will be unique, so it is important to embrace every moment. Embrace the Spirit Of Safari.

What is the Spirit Of Safari? How do you find it and how do you harness it? This spirit we talk of begins within us all. It goes beyond our wildest expectations and takes us to a place we never knew was out there. The spirit of safari is a feeling that we never knew we wanted: a feeling and connection that’s almost dreamlike. Once you have had it, it is something that will remain with you forever.

Written by: Mike Sutherland

Photographed by: Mike Sutherland and Chris Renshaw

Luxury Islands

 

We have all dreamt about or imagined spending time on a tropical beach on a remote island. It is the epitome of relaxation. We think of these places being in exotic locations like the Caribbean, Bali or Tahiti. However off the African coast, there are islands and atolls that would leave you speechless with their beauty, charisma and absolute isolation. Some of these islands are in the most remote locations, but have a sense  of luxury and pure relaxation that can compete with and exceed any other island getaway in the world.

Why would a safari company that specializes in privately guided, chartered and custom made safaris be writing about tropical paradises?

Because we can. And, we can can take you to them. With a private aircraft at your disposal, this is easily achieved. Picture lounging in a private villa on an atoll just off the coast of Northern Mozambique. No problem. We can make it happen. Imagine being on the safari of a lifetime where you have seen gorillas, chimpanzees, the great migration or any other experience we’ve created for you, only to be  whisked off to an island paradise to reflect on what you have just experienced. It doesn’t seem possible. But it is and can be achieved. And once you’re there you can participate in any of the activities associated with island life; or simply relax and sip cocktails of your choice. What an epic way to finish off a trip of a lifetime!

With this in mind, we thought we would showcase some of the amazing islands and properties that we use. All of them are easily combined with a safari itinerary and each has its own special attraction.

AndBeyond Benguerra

A thrilling chopper flip or a scenic boat trip will get you to the island from the mainland. Located in a marine reserve, this beautiful AndBeyond property lives up to the expectations created by the rest of the lodges in the AndBeyond Group. Set among swaying palm trees, ten casinhas and two cabanas have been designed in a light and airy colour scheme that combines tropical chic with a distinct African feel while also incorporating reminders of the area’s Portuguese heritage. The island is rich in history and while taking a break from all the numerous activities, you can enjoy a tour of the island. Incredible food, tasty local beverages and fun activities make this place very special.

http://wetu.com/iBrochure/en/Home/1598_1224/andBeyond_Benguerra_Island

Unique cuisine associated with the region and island life, incorporating a bit of Portuguese flair.

Remote beaches and sand bars.

Relaxed and content.

Luxurious spaces.

Cocktails on the beach? Sure…

AndBeyond Mnemba island

Exclusive yet unpretentious, AndBeyond Mnemba Island is an award-winning private beach paradise just off the northeast coast of Zanzibar. Ten beachside bandas overlook a pristine coral reef (a scuba diver’s delight) at this romantic, private hideaway. From snorkeling, swimming and kayaking to massages on the beach or simply doing nothing at all, AndBeyond Mnemba has something for everyone. Watch the video below and follow the link to get a better idea of what Mnemba Island is all about.

http://wetu.com/iBrochure/en/Home/1598_14088/andBeyond_Mnemba_Island_Lodge

Once you have woken up to this view, it’s hard for anyone to go back to reality.

Mnemba Island, in its entirety.

A little luxury on your island.

AndBeyond Vamizi island

Set among the Quirimbas Archipelago, in a marine conservation area off the coast of northern Mozambique, lies the idyllic coral island of AndBeyond Vamizi. It is blessed with a tropical climate and offers immaculate powder-soft beaches that rival those of the Maldives. Perfect for families or groups, six luxurious villas beckon to guests with their individually decorated interiors to offer you a private slice of paradise. Each villa is as special and unique as another. And the luxury and service you’ll receive is only rivaled by the beauty and remoteness of the island’s location. If you are interested in fishing, diving or snorkel, these are virgin waters. You can swim from your deck and see a myriad of species that you would otherwise need to go diving for. This is a destination to be explored at your own pace.

Follow the link below for a full breakdown of the amazing island.

http://wetu.com/iBrochure/en/Home/1598_72686/andBeyond_Vamizi_Island

Unique villas with individual design.

The sound of the ocean while you sleep, massaged by a gentle sea breeze.

Pool side reading with a Mojito?

An aerial view of the remote island.

A little canoe or stand up paddle boarding, starting form your villa.

Azura Qulilálea

Azura Quilalea is a hidden gem. A placeto retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life, with a relaxed and understated ‘Robinson Crusoe’ castaway style that belies the comforts and experiences on offer in the 9 handcrafted seafront villas. A wholly uninhabited island paradise that ensures the total privacy and exclusivity of guests while also being surrounded by the magnificent pristine waters of a marine sanctuary.

Azura Quilalea is located in the pristine Quirimbas Archipelago – a scattering of beautiful unspoilt islands in remote Northern Mozambique. It’s an absolute utopia for lovers of marine life. Mozambique offers superb snorkeling, excellent fishing and world class scuba diving opportunities. Back on the island, guests may be lucky enough to watch pods of dolphins cruise past their sun deck or observe humpback whales frolicking in the sea or even spot some of the nesting turtles in season.

Culture buffs may enjoy visiting nearby Ibo Island, where time has stood still, and the silversmiths still make jewellery the old traditional way. More relaxing activities include kayaking through the mangroves on nearby Sencar Island, a nature walk, spotting one of the 182 species of birds, or a massage at the cliff-top spa.

Click below to emmerse yourself in the video of this picturesque paradise.

http://wetu.com/iBrochure/en/Home/1598_14802/Azura_Quilalea_Private_Island

A room right on the ocean. Your playground on your doorstep.

Open, spacious and luxurious.

Incredible seafood cuisine.

Azura Qulilálea. Your island…

North Island

Finally, North Island is a place of barefoot luxury for those seeking an unspoilt, spectacular tropical retreat. There are only 11 individually handcrafted guest villas on the entire island, each constructed to create a sensorial experience in surroundings of understated elegance and providing a unique atmosphere and distinct flavour of the Seychelles.

A lounge, dining room and library, scenically located health spa and gym, world-class dive centre, and a rim-flow swimming pool are all built into a granitic outcrop. A sunset bar and restaurant are tucked away on the western beach of the island. Activities include biking, gym, guided walks, snorkelling, fishing, boating, sea kayaking, and scuba diving. North Island has created a signature style that combines natural beauty with sheer luxury, a rare experience in harmony with the environment.

Watch the video below to see for yourself what North Island has to offer.

http://wetu.com/iBrochure/en/Home/1598_14205/North_Island

A nesting ground for one of the ocean’s wanderers.

One of the most luxurious rooms you could possibly imagine.

A sunset cocktail with a pristine background.

Hmmm… a romantic excursion for two?

A relaxed giant cruising past an extremely lucky diver.

Whichever destination or island that you choose, they all have something unique about them. What they do have in common though, is the effect that they have on you. Complete and utter relaxation. The perfect way to end an African Safari – Safari Architects style.

Chris

Photographs and videos courtesy of Wetu and the lodges featured

 

Other Fascinating Wildlife News

 

Being a wildlife enthusiast, explorer and photographer, I hold a deep fascination with any new discovery in the natural world.  And so I thought I would share some of the recent documentaries and wildlife articles I’ve come across  that definitely piqued my interest. I have selected content for you on a variety of topics from around the globe illustrating the wonders of the natural world from all over.

I grew watching the BBC’s “Wildlife on One”. Being synonymous around the globe for embodying wildlife documentaries, Sir David Attenborough is naturally someone I look up to. The BBC has been at the forefront of groundbreaking wildlife documentaries for many years. Their Planet Earth series, volume 2 which has recently aired is no exception. Numerous other shows like “Blue Planet”, “The Hunt” and “Life of birds” also offer viewers some insane footage of animal behaviour. They are all most definitely worth a watch. Here are some video clips from them. After watching, I encourage you to actually purchase the box sets or download the full series. More often than not, the proceeds from these shows support some of the bigger conservation projects where their filming took place to help protect the precious natural wonders they depict.

Some recent wildlife articles:

You may also wish to read through these interesting articles which contain some thoughtful insights into lesser known species.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/bumblebees-endangered-extinction-united-states/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/damselfly-mating-amber-cretaceous-era/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/humpback-whales-swarms-south-africa/

Yours in natural curiosity,

Chris

25 Images Of Africa 2017

It has been an amazing start to the year so far. The first quarter is now behind us, and to showcase some of our safari highlights, we have put together our best images from Africa 2017. A compilation of experiences we have together with our guests on safari. We have travelled between the Sabi Sands, the Timbavati, Northern KZN, southern Kalahari, the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti.

We are often spoilt by incredible scenes whilst on safari, and we certainly do not take them for granted. We focus on providing the best possible experience for our guests at every moment of the journey together. Moments like these are captured, kept still in time, to be relived again and again. We hope that looking back on these, we are able to awaken these moments we shared with our guests within each viewer.

Enjoy our Images from Africa 2017.

A female leopard stares into the sky, watching vultures pass overhead. Kirkmans Kamp, Sabi Sands.

A dominant male surveys his territory. Mala Mala, Sabi Sands.

Dining under the night sky. Londolozi, Sabi Sands.

Without colour we are left with more clarity. Chitabe, Botswana.

A feast fit for a safari king. Ngala Tented Camp, Timbavati.

The lions share. Makanyi Lodge, Timbavati.

Cricket in the Sand River. It can be done. Kirkmans Kamp, Sabi Sands.

Spots and stripes. Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa.

The pride moves together, as one. Londolozi, Sabi Sands.

A Bronze Winged Courser, rarely seen during the day. Its large eyes give away its nocturnal tendencies. Londolozi, Sabi Sands.

A lion pride crosses the Sand River in search of their next meal. Mala Mala, Sabi Sands.

Tales and songs around the fireplace. Londolozi, Sabi Sands.

An approach by the most regal of cats. Kirkmans Kamp, Sabi Sands.

From shortest to tallest. Singita Boulders, Sabi Sands.

A buffalo herd before the rain in the delta. Chiefs Island, Botswana.

A silhouette of a secret huntress. Mala Mala, Sabi Sands.

Hello, anybody home? A meerkat stares into a GoPro camera, looking at its reflection. Tswalu, Kalahari.

The golden hour with an incredibly rare animal. Location, undisclosed.

A perfect pose. Kirkmans Kamps, Sabi Sands.

Sunrise over the Jao Flats in the Okavango Delta. Jao Flats, Botswana.

A family crossing a flooded plain. Chiefs Island, Botswana.

Sometimes the views on safari are enough. Chiefs Island, Botswana.

The power and grace of a Martial Eagle in flight. Kings Pools, Linyanti.

The cheetah and the white road. Tswalu, Kalahari.

Large cats sometimes need to cross large bodies of water to move around their territories. Mala Mala, Sabi Sands.

Written by: Mike Sutherland

Photographed by: Mike Sutherland and Chris Renshaw

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