Lion Cubs and Leopards in the Balule Nature Reserve

The Balule Nature Reserve seems to be on a winning streak when it comes to lion cub sightings. Spotting healthy lion cubs within a reserve is always a momentous occasion worthy of celebrating. Coupled with the new life emerging from under the shrubbery, the sleek leopards are also making an appearance in the Balule on a regular basis. The Balule is fast becoming big cat kingdom, and it’s worth adding the reserve to your list of big five safari destinations.

The Balule forms part of the Greater Kruger and rests on the periphery of the Kruger National Park and other private reserves. The borders are unfenced which means wildlife can roam freely throughout. This big five reserve is possibly lesser-known than its more marketed counterparts, but that in itself is a highlight. The Balule enjoys spectacular sightings and is an uncrowded reserve. Ezulwini River Lodge and Ezulwini Billy’s Lodge lie in the heart of the Balule, and offers its visitors a wide variety of accommodation options in lodges with unique communal spaces (we’re talking skywalks, elevated resting spots under trees and private plunge pools).

Back to the discovery of lion cubs.

We’ve shared information about the dominating presence of the famous Machaton males that are spotted regularly while out on game drive. Their history denotes a timeline that is tumultuous. They are true warriors, willing to fight for a kingdom. A couple of years ago, the heavyset and powerful Mohlabetsi coalition ruled-the-roost on Ezulwini’s traverse and it was believed that only supreme and brave Kings would dare try to oust the menacing Mohlabetsi.

Cue entry of the Machatons.

After a turbulent time and fighting for the throne, the Machatons eventually took the Mohlabetis territory. The Kudyela lionesses, a pride of females spotted on Ezulwini home ground, saw potential in the Machatons. After a considerable amount of time, one of the Kudyelas eventually gave birth to a litter of 4 cubs sired by the one of the Machaton emperors.

We were hoping this day would come. And when it did, Angele Rouillard was there with her camera snapping away at any opportunity to document the presence of these adorably bumbling parcels of joy. The cubs are healthy and thriving in the Balule.

Cubs normally remain in the den site for 2/3 months; after which they will be introduced to the rest of the pride. Lionesses will stay with their natal pride for life, while the males will eventually move off and start their nomadic lifestyle of seeking out land and females.

We move from the lion cub sightings to the Balule leopard sightings. In the past we’ve been rewarded with sightings of the blue-eyed boy Chavaluthu and even the Van Wijk’s female; but there are two new recruits in town – exquisite sisters, Thuli and Nyanke. Both these beauties were born in early 2016 and we certainly cannot wait to see more of these slender cats.

From lion cubs to leaps of leopards, the Balule is certainly enjoying a wealth of game viewing at the moment.

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