Lions in Phinda

This year we took an amazing trip to Africa and went on Safari. It was a trip two years in the making as we won the safari during a silent auction in 2014. The trip was fantastic but one of the highlights for me was having the opportunity to go to the Phinda Game Reserve and see lions in the wild.

I’ll do a longer post in the future relating to our experience on the safari at our game reserve – Zulu Nyala – which did not have lions on the property so getting the opportunity to head to an adjacent location (about an hour away) and track lions was amazing and we were very grateful that Phinda had openings to get us in.

The Phinda Game Reserve is run by a company called And Beyond and from our brief tour of this reserve and also interaction with their guides I was really impressed. In fact, when I got home I priced out a trip to see the Great Migration in Africa with their company….unfortunately, it is a bit out of my price range at the moment but maybe, just maybe in thirty years when I retire! It’s on the bucket list now. For the time being I’ll have to look at these pictures to remember our time with the lions in Phinda.

As we approached the lions we all were quiet with anticipation – the guides weren’t sure but heard that cubs were recently born so we had to be really careful to make sure we didn’t disturb them and thus spook the pride of lions. They asked us not to take pictures for the first few minutes so that the lions could get used to our presence. As we sat and stared at them they eventually relaxed and accepted that we were there to observe and not hurt them. This comfort caused some of the lions to relax and lay in the grass/shade without a care in the world. Others stayed on edge – watching and panting – ready to strike if and when necessary. The cubs remained hidden in the trees but ultimately relaxed enough to the point that they were even taking turns nursing so clearly we weren’t bothering them too much. I was really happy that I had the long lens because it permitted me to shoot through the trees and the grass and get some nice closeups of the lions and the cubs. We liked the long lens so much (Tamron 150 – 600mm) that we my wife wound up buying it for my birthday when we got back to Chicago. The bad part is there isn’t nearly as many cool things to zoom in on in Chicago but I’m sure we will find a use for it in the future!

The key features of the Phinda Safari that I enjoyed better than our safari were:

  1. Their Safari guides were able to go ‘off-road’ and actually track the animals which made it feel less ‘zoo’ like
  2. They had an actual tracker sitting in a chair on the front of the car searching for signs of the animals
  3. We got to see not only lions but their Cubs as well
  4. They brought a full bar with them on the safari and took us up to the top of one of the hills to watch the sunset over the reserve. I wasn’t able to get any pictures of this (wrong lens on the camera) but I’ll remember the colors changing forever – it is etched in my memory


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