Lion Day!!!...Finally!...


What an animal!  We feel fortunate to have been able to get today's photos of lions.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
This baboon seemed happy with a piece of fruit she'd foraged.
When we spent three months in Marloth Park four and a half years ago, visiting Kruger National Park on many occasions, we never saw a lion.  During our almost six months here now, and after almost weekly trips to Kruger, we'd yet to see a single lion on our self-drive safaris.
There was a total of six lions but we weren't able to capture all of them together in one photo.
On several occasions, we've seen lions from the fence in Marloth Park at the "Two Trees" overlook across the Crocodile River.  However, getting good photos from almost a kilometer away has been tricky, to say the least.
Lion lounging on the rocks.
Without special camera lenses and with our somewhat modest cameras and camera skills, we've been disappointed with the shots we've had so far.  Instead, each week when we venture into Kruger we have a glimmer of hope we may get lucky.
Young male sprouting the beginnings of a mane.  From this site: "The mane has many hypothetical purposes and some reasonable explanations. It is supposed to make the male lion look bigger to an adversary and therefore more intimidating. It is supposed to protect the male lion from being bitten and clawed by other male lions. Some researchers have proposed it is a handicap in hot climates and therefore the male lions in Tsavo, Kenya are “maneless”. 
I don't know what it is about lions that make safari enthusiasts feel great satisfaction when they see them but it seems to be the general consensus in everyone we meet here.  We weren't the only people driving around in Marloth Park for days looking for the lions who'd entered the park through an opening in the fence between the two parks.
Now and then, he opened his eyes to scope the area.
Perhaps, it's their fearsome nature, majestic beauty and a degree of mystery surrounding their demeanor that makes us literally foam at the mouth when there's a lion nearby.  Maybe for some of us, the excitement of potential danger sends us into an adrenaline rush.  

After all, we don't bungee or skydive.  How else do we get our adventuresome natures fulfilled in the wild?  Lions, hippos (the most dangerous animals on the planet) and other big game can send us into a frenzy of adrenaline pumping through our veins.  What a thrill!

A pair on the move.
It's imperative to stress that after each expedition in Kruger, we are not disappointed or frustrated for not seeing lions up until this point.  We've had our share of "safari luck" in countless ways in our world travels.  No complaining here.

Yawning...
Yesterday morning, no more than 20 minutes into our drive on the tar road in Kruger, as we approached one of our favorite spots, the Vurhami Dam, we saw about a dozen cars stopped facing in all directions with many passengers and drivers hanging out the windows (a no-no in the park) attempting to take photos with phones, cameras, and tablets.
Wishing I'd have taken a better shot, it still was great to see those teeth.  From this site:  Like all other mammals, the African lion has a fixed arrangement of teeth which can be generalized into a dental formula. This formula can only be effectively applied to adults as, like all other cats, the permanent teeth only begin to erupt at around three months of age, pushing the deciduous teeth up and eventually causing them to fall out. The full set of adult teeth are gained between the age of 13 and 15 months.  The front canine teeth are spaced such that they can slip between the cervical vertebrae of their prey severing the spinal cord and also to rip chunks of meat away from the bone."
The expert driver that Tom is he eventually managed to maneuver us into a spot where we'd have a clear sight of the lions although they were still at quite a distance. As amateur photographers well know, those of us with basic digital cameras, the more we zoom, the less clear the shot mostly due to our own movements.
Back to sleep.
I've yet to master holding perfectly still while shooting and doubt I ever will.  This isn't something that improves as we age.  Even taking a breath can upset what could have been a decent photo.  I've noticed that even Tom's slightest movement in the little car while I'm shooting has an impact on the photos.
Another young male with a mane in its early stages.
We must have stayed in that ideal position for about 45 minutes, waiting for the lion's next move or change in position or expression.  We were thrilled with the results as shown in today's photos.
Lions have great vision.  From this site: Lion's eyes have two kinds of receptor cells, called rods and cones because of their structure. Rods are mainly responsible for black and white vision, and cones do the color bit. Human eyes have a predominance of cones – we see colors very well, especially in the red spectrum of light, but consequently, we have a problem with night vision no matter how many carrots we eat. Lions have fewer cones so see less color but have great night vision especially since their eyes also have a membrane that concentrates weak light back to the retina and their pupils are able to enlarge to an extent much bigger than ours." 
When the lions began to scatter and walk away, we took off, still giddy over the experience.  We continued on with little to no expectations of seeing much else the rest of the day but the adventures continued.
From this site: "Lions are supposed to be nocturnal, and there is a popular misconception promoted by guidebooks that lions sleep about 20 hours per day. In fact, lions are very opportunistic in terms of when they are active. For sure, most lions will probably wake from their daily slumber and begin to get active at dusk, but this is not always so. If lions have water within their territory that attracts prey animals in the daytime, the lions will be active in the day."
At one point, Tom spotted a leopard, but it happened too quickly for a photo. Thus, our day consisted of seeing four of the Big Five, lion, leopard, elephant, and cape buffalo, although we never spotted a rhino all day.  (As a side note, seeing the Big Five in a day is not necessarily that important to us which had transpired many times in the Masaai Mara in Kenya in 2013, to which we'll soon return). 

Over the next few days, we'll post the remainder of our photos including a few more lion shots not included today and a few new bird sightings that were quite exciting.

May your day bring you joy!
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Photo from one year ago today, August 2, 2017:
Tom is as content as he could be at La Perla de Atenas in Costa Rica, one year ago today.  For more details, please click here.

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