I was so looking forward to getting back to the Zululand Rhino Reserve and visiting a lodge I had not been to before. On a previous visit, nearly two years ago, I had seen the young coalition of three young lion brothers. The brothers had now met lionesses and cubs had recently been born. Prides were forming and dominance was taking over. Would I be lucky on this trip?
Zebra Hills is owned and managed by husband and wife team Kevin and Lin who live on site next door to the main lodge. Although the lodge can accommodate eighteen people in nine rooms it hardly creates an impact in terms of size. With its huge thatch roof it blends perfectly into its surroundings. There are no fences and the indigenous gardens run into the open bush.
The gardens also contain a large swimming pool and a boma with open fire for dining under the stars. Just beyond the boma is a water hole where animals come to quench their thirst. Prior to the afternoon’s high tea I sat by the pool and watched hundreds of swallows and swifts feeding on bugs, screeching as they passed my vantage point.
My large en-suit room was on the second floor looking directly over the pool and into the surrounding bush. I am not sure I had stayed at a game reserve before with an upstairs room? The huge bed was as comfortable, with crisp white sheets, as any I have slept in. The large room meant there was room for a couple of comfy chairs and a couch all positioned to take advantage of the views.
Downstairs there is no shortage of space either with a bar and huge comfy lounge. I was served afternoon tea on the patio adjacent to the lounge and under the shade of the pagoda. It was a substantial ‘snack’ to say the least, spring-rolls, fresh pineapple, scones with jam & cream plus fresh fruit juice. On the subject of food dinner was excellent to. Cheese pasties to start, followed by springbok potjie, served from the black pot, with rice and Greek salad and home baked bread.
As I sat enjoying a cold beer on the patio prior to dinner I thought I heard a lion roar in the distance. Maybe I was mistaken after all as darkness drops in the volume of noise increases. The last bird calls of the day, toads and frogs plus beetles all begin to fill the night air with an evening mixed chorus. The second roar was definitely a roar. The third and fourth roars were not so distant. Now the roaring was repeated every few minutes and I knew the lion was close. Anzette the young lodge manager bought me another cold drink. I looked at her, the lion roared, and we both looked into the garden. I suggested the lion must be close, maybe five hundred meters away? She put the cold beer on the table and calmly said “I think its in the garden. It has visited us before and drunk from the swimming pool” I decided to stand at this point and peer into the darkness. However not having the nocturnal eyes of a night hunter, like a lion, I could see nothing. Anzette then told me that it was probably the new father and he often called his companion and cubs after dark and close to the lodge.
The following morning I woke before sunrise and sat with a tea in my room looking down into the garden. I was looking to see if the pride were still there, maybe drinking from the pool. However there was no sign of the lions. Sadly on this occasion I cannot report that the lions were looking magnificent. What I can report is that at least one of them was in great voice. My reward for awaking early was to be treated to the most wonderful sunrise of the week. I will return to the Zululand Rhino reserve in search of lions.