The opening shot of Wild Earth’s live Game Drive on the 9th of November 2007 was a close up magnificent buffalo bull, otherwise known as a Dagga Boy. One Horn, a big old boy WE know well, was amongst the 20 odd other Dagga boys … Rex knew it was going to be a good drive.

The hot air on this Thursday afternoon in Djuma, was soon filled with Rexon and the rest of the WE crew’s excitement when a couple of minutes later we had a quick sighting of four rhino’s on Buffelshoek Gowrie cut line. The Rhino were very skittish, by comparison to the two bulls we saw on this morning’s drive, and WE could only catch a quick glimpse of them. There were two bulls, a cow and a youngster. It was the calf that probably made them nervous and so quick to dash off into the thick bush, because of the instinct to protect the young one and keep him out of harms way.
Rexon’s instinct also kicked in and he had a feeling that WE might have a big 5 drive … again. His love of his job and passion for the Big 5 could be heard in the way he was talking, not by the words, but the way he said them! Rexon asked Rob what he would like too see next, Rob wanted lions and Rexon agreed…full of confidence Rexon took us towards Cheetah cut line. WE passed some beautiful kudu cows but there was no time to stop, what with two down and three too go!
Half way along Cheetah cut line and circling above the place where the lions were last seen was a vulture flying high up. Was there a kill? No it was too close to where WE left the lions the previous day … they must still be there.

On reaching the place where we had left them, we were disappointed to discover that they had moved on. However, five minutes later Rexon found one stunning male lion escaping the afternoon sun under the shady cover of a bush … flat cat!! WE spent some time with this male, who was not the fella who had been mating with the female we saw the day before. After a couple of minutes relaxing with this male, Rex reversed into the clearing next to the road … and there were yesterday’s lovers catching the light. The late sun shone on them and WE saw them in a light we all dream of seeing lions in. Especially the male with his glorious mane.

WE were not that fortunate to witness the spectacular scene of them mating again, but the whole atmosphere contributed to probably one of the best lion sightings we have ever seen. Bathed in the golden sunlight was the beginning of a love story … with a twist. A scandal that writers of the best soaps in the world would love, and it was unfolding right here in front of our eyes, LIVE!
The male who mated with this female belongs to a pride called the Kahumas, and now his brother had joined them. These two naughty boys were not really where they were supposed to be (with the rest of the Kahuma pride), but with another rather foxy lady, who Rex calls “Salawexe” – the one who was left alone.
Salawexe belonged to a pride called the Sandy patch pride, who used to live on western Gowrie and Sandy patch, hence the pride’s name. All the other members of the Sandy Patch pride are dead and only Salawexe is left.
Now the male from the Kahuma pride was mating with Salawexe … what does this mean for the Kahuma females and their cubs? Or for the nomadic, and hopefully pregnant, Salawexe?
Apparently dominant male lions can operate between, and mate with, different groups of females. As long as Salawexe stays in the territory of the Kahuma males and out of the way of their females she will be relatively safe. If she does come across the Kahuma females she could be in big trouble. They will attack and try to kill her! Whats more, they will probably succeed as there are many more of them.
There are other threats to Salawexe. What if she wonders into males other than the Kahuma males? Are they going to try to kill her as well? Now this is where it gets interesting and where a female lioness pulls a hidden card from her sleeve, one which only she can do. The false oestrus. If a lioness , who has been successfully impregnated by a lion, meets another male she can display a false oestrus and allow the new male to mate with her. This mating session will not last nearly as long as it lasted with the first male, but it will leave the new male satisfied, he will in return offer protection to who he thinks are his cubs and their mother. And the female and her cubs can live in the protection of two totally different males with different territories.
Well done Salawexe, you go girl!! WE will definitely follow you in the days that come and are counting down the 110 days until you hopefully give birth to the next generation of the Sandy Patch Pride!
WE all enjoyed the breathtaking sighting but, we had to get moving. Still needed leopard and elephant! And I’m sure there were a lot of other just as eager eyes that needed to be blown away, so Rexon and Rob continued west in the great search of the big 5. The hidden wise one and the elusive and potent leopard!

The sun had almost dipped below the western horizon when Rexon was driving on Philemon’s cut line. WE don’t know how, but Rex spotted the elephants in the distance. They were very far away but Rex soon got us up close and personal when the matriarch and her two three week old babies passed meters from our vehicle.

Now we had only one to go and the possibility of seeing a leopard was growing every second, the radio confirmed that Karula was heading towards Gowrie main and into our traversing area. Racing to the spot that she might cross we postponed switching to infra red fearing that we might miss her!! There she was, walking parallel to Gowrie main, we had a glimpse of our most loved leopard.
WE had just done our second ever Big 5 drive. Thanks Rex and Rob … its in your nature.

Written by Jan Harm Robbertse.