When cubs make up part of a pride of lions, you can be assured of some great interaction and playfulness. We had found a small pride of five – two lionesses, two four-month old cubs, and an impressive male. The cubs were full of energy, stalking, pouncing and generally teasing each other as all young cats do. From time to time they would literally clamber on top of the male lion as he rested. He was remarkably tolerant, and at one point the cubs lay beside his massive head and groomed him in a great show of affection.

A rustling in the grass caught the cubs’ attention. Seconds later, a large hunting beetle emerged – these beetles are about 3 inches long and capable of squirting an acidic liquid at anything that threatens them. This was obviously the cubs’ first encounter with a creature like this, and one of them rushed in bravely, only to receive a face full of burning spray which he frantically tried to rid himself of using his oversized paws. Lesson learned, they resumed their typical play, which involved stalking their mother’s black tail tuft, and pouncing on each other in mock attacks.

We learnt that these were originally a trio of cubs, but one had been taken by a crocodile as they crossed the Sabi River nearby. It’s always sad to hear these stories, but it was heartening to see the remaining pair in such perfect condition and so spirited. We’re hoping that they make it through the trials of survival into adulthood.