This is the last post from our trip to the Timbavati with Sue and Neville.
“Within my soul, within my mind,
There lies a place I cannot find.
Home of my heart. Land of my birth.
Smoke-coloured stone and flame-coloured earth.
Electric skies. Shivering heat.
Blood-red clay beneath my feet.
At night when finally alone,
I close my eyes – and I am home.
I kneel and touch the blood-warm sand
And feel the pulse beneath my hand
Of an ancient life too old to name,
In an ancient land too wild to tame.”
–Michelle Frost ( part of the poem – WHITE SKIN AND AN AFRICAN SOUL)
It was our last morning and there was no way anyone was going to miss our last game drive. At 6h30 we were all out of camp. It was freezing cold, the sky was clear and dawn was breaking. We did our requisite stop at “hide waterhole” to see what, if anything, was drinking there – nothing. The Hippo family were watching us with their eyes and snouts just above the water. The scene was very peaceful and ablaze with colour from the rising sun.
Not ten minutes later as we were driving up the hill, a small herd of Wildebeest galloped passed us. Pat immediately picked up on this, saying that it was strange for them to be behaving like this and there was probably a predator around.
Pat was right, there was a predator around and another and another….. In fact there was a pride of seven Lion around. Our luck – this was the pride with two white Lions. The sun was still rising and it was probably around 7h00.
Even in the early low light their white coats were very distinctive.
The first record of White Lions dates back over 400 years in African history. The first White Lion sighting by an European was only in the early 1930’s. This was in the Timbavati region. In the ancient Shangaan language, Timbavati means “The Place Where Star Lions Came Down From The Heavens”. (http://www.cango.co.za/lions). These majestic creatures are said to be descendants of celestial beings that gave rise to a sacred lineage of noble African kings.
According to the legends of the Shangaan people living deep in the wilds of Southern Africa, White Lions are the Messengers of the Gods, and their presence in their tribal lands ensures peace and prosperity for all. Scientists were unable to document their existence until they were spotted again in the mid 1970s. (http://www.whitelionjourneys.com)
“Gentle pink dawns and shimmering vermilion days
Harsh desert heat where life cowers
Blood sunsets on red sands
Freezing dry nights, where ready predators lurk.”
part of a poem Listen by Graham Vivian Lancaster
For many centuries, African kings identified the lands of Timbavati as a protected area. It falls on the Nile meridian (31 degrees East), a ley line which is also referred to as “Zep Tepi,” believed to be the spot at which life first emerged on the planet. This area also happens to be exactly aligned with the great Sphinx of ancient Egypt, a representation of the fusion of human beings and lions, both considered to be at the apex of their respective kingdoms.(http://www.whitelionjourneys.com). These are the kinds of stories you listen to while sitting around the camp fire and gazing into the flames while your imagination dances with the sparks up into the the dark star-filled sky.
Judging from the pride interaction, the Lions do not pay any attention to the differences in the colour of their coats.
Soft early morning light in the bush.
The pride eventually stopped to rest and laid up in reasonably thick bush above one of the waterholes.
It was very peaceful scene with just the sound of the odd Crested Spurfowl calling in the distance.
These Lions looked very comfortable soaking up the warm winter sun after what must have been a busy night.
The White Lions are very popular probably because of all the mystic and legend surrounding them, so we had to give others a chance to see them and left them to go a find a place to talk about what we had just seen over a cup of coffee and muffin. Pat took us to a familar waterhole, at which we had stopped on day two. We stopped on the dam wall so we could see what was coming. Pat had heard that there was a large herd of Buffalo in the area and what a brilliant surprise, they stopped for a drink too.
It was a very large herd, I did not count them but there must have been over 500. A part of the herd had already drunk and had moved on into the bush.
This old bull was at the back of the herd. By the look of the colour on his hind leg I think he might have recently had a tangle with Lions.
Once the Buffalo had moved away from the waterhole, a few Zebra came down to drink. They walked down and immediately had a good look around, saw us and figured we were far enough away not to be a problem and proceeded to drink. The wildlife does not hang around once it has had its drink of water and quickly merges back into the bush, probably because there is a good chance predators will be lurking in the surrounding bush.
On our way back to camp, we came across this very cold Lilac-breasted Roller.
A little further on we saw this Steenbok close to the road but it seemed quite relaxed, standing still long enough to get a shot.
The end of a brilliant four days in the bush. Thank you Timbavati, thank you Walker’s Camp staff and a big thank you to Pat and Eileen for a wonderful four days with some great sightings. It was fun meeting Joan, Eddie and Lizette, and Richard and Wendy. We all got on really well together spiced with animated conversations about life the country and wildlife stories. To Sue and Neville thank you again for inviting us to join your group of friends for a memorable four days in the Timbavati.
AFRICA, MY AFRICA
“The smell of rain upon parched, dry ground
Songs of Africa fill the air as drums pound
Majestic sunsets, vistas grand
My soul dissolved within this land
The roar of a lion, call of the wild
Music to the ears of an innocent child
The smell of smoke from a charcoal fire
Fancy toy gallimotos made from wire
Mangoes, paw paws, sugar cane too
The sweetest delights for me and you
Elephant grass, black jacks in our socks
Skimming the river with small flat rocks
Slag heaps, slimes dams, ant hills abound
Bare feet raise dust swirls as we run around
The pure white smile of a picannin’s grin
Acapella harmony as rich voices sing
A million stars grace the African skies
The beat of wings as a fish eagle flies
Bright chitengi wrapped around hips that sway
Dusty children, laughing at play
Maize pounded diligently, thud after thud
Little round huts made from grass and mud
A canoe bobbing silently at water’s edge
A creeping, purple bougainvillea hedge
White floating clouds, in a deep blue sky
Memories like these bring a tear to my eye
For here I am in the land of the free
But I forgot to bring my heart with me…
Africa, My Africa
You will always burn bright in my soul.”
– Linda (Dore) Hayes 2001
The poems can be found at Linda Smith’s WordPress website. Have a look, it is superb with special meaning to those who have lived in Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe.
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.
Mike. You were so privileged to see the white lions in the wild. On their own they can’t survive, but here in a pride they seem to be doing well.
Thanks for sharing Mike. With all that’s going on with the killing of Cecil, whales in the Faroe islands, poaching of rhino and elephant, I once again realise how privilged and fortunate we are to see these magnificent animals in the wild. We can only hope that sanity will prevail. Super images to capture wonderful memories.
What stunning photos. Thank you for using one of my poems. i’m honoured.
Hi Michelle, thanks very much for your comment. I apologise for such a delayed response. I am the one who is honoured. Please many I quote from two of your poems “Homeland” and “I wish you…”. They are beautiful and have deep meaning to “ex-Zimbos” such as myself and for those people who have got this part of the world under their skin. I can hear and feel your “Zims” roots are deeply etched in your soul. Only someone who experienced those days could express their feelings in such evocative poetry. I will watch “Crow’s Feet” for more inspiration. Best wishes. Mike