Enticed by the promise of a constant food source, courtesy of the buffalo herds in the area, guests at Umlani Bushcamp have experienced some fantastic sightings of the white lions recently that Umlani has become so familiar with over the years.
The Timbavati is famous for the white lions that inhabit the area. First discovered in the mid-1970s, they have become the subject of much interest and debate over the years. It was originally speculated that these lions might suffer from ‘albinism’ or may even be a different species altogether. However, it has now been discovered that their white coat is actually a result of ‘leucism’ – a rare condition in which the pelt is white but eyes and skin are pigmented. Wild white lions are rarely seen anywhere other than in the Timbavati Game Reserve, suggesting that the ‘white gene’ pool is almost completely unique to this area.
Greg McCall-Peat, operations manager at Umlani Bushcamp, shares some of their recent lion sightings, including encounters with the rare white lions.
A few weeks ago, ‘The Giraffe Pride’ of lions pulled down a big buffalo. This sighting was special for so many reasons, not least of which was the presence of two white lions of the Timbavati, plus the pride’s latest additions – three young cubs. The Giraffe Pride is the largest pride we see traversing our area and the white lions are always an incredible sight to see.
In the below photo, one of the white lions stares at one of the lionesses from her pride as she approaches. This lion in particular has the most captivating eyes I have ever seen on a big cat, adding to the mystical feel one gets when viewing these special lions.
Below a male and one of the older cubs from The Giraffe Pride feed on a buffalo kill. The sheer size of the male can clearly be seen when he is compared to the young cub. One of the most interesting things to see at a kill like this is that the males tolerate their cubs feeding but should one of the lionesses approach, the aggression starts and he does not allow them anywhere near the kill.
One of the white lions along with a tawny counterpart and a lone male were also recently found on a kudu kill. The male decided the kill was his and he didn’t allow the females to eat, which inevitably led them to leave the carcass in search of a meal they didn’t have to share with the greedy male.
A few days ago we had a lioness and the sub adult male cub drink right in front of camp at a pool in the river bed. To have lions this close to camp really makes you realise you are in the wild. Not everyone can say they have this sort of neighbour.
Spending every day out in the African bush allows you to witness some amazing things, but if you’re ever lucky enough to be in the presence of wild white lions, be sure to treasure the experience!