Location: Liwonde National Park, Malawi
Date: 18th July 2011
Observers and photographers: McCloud Kaliati and Douwe Fischer
For the past couple of months we have been hearing lions calling in Liwonde National Park, but have not been able to see them. Finally, on 18 July 2011, this changed and we caught a glimpse of one of them.
The night of the 18th, we were out on a late night game drive with a school group. We had jumped in our game drive vehicle and gone into the night to see if we could spot some of the nocturnal animals we usually see. After about two kilometres we saw a hippo and we stopped the vehicle to have a look at it; at the same time, we heard a lion roar. He sounded as if he was only about two kilometres from where we were. On the floodplains at South Mtangai we saw very fresh tracks, but they were heading the opposite direction.
Later on we were heading north on the main road trying to see if we could get some more sightings on the north side of the camp. All of a sudden I saw this strangely shaped rock to the left of us. But I had driven that road often enough to know that there was no such rock on that particular road. It took me half a second to realise that we were actually looking at a lion!
It turned its head towards us and then it was quite clear it was the young male lion whose tracks we had seen for the last couple of months. McCloud switched off the car immediately and tried to keep the guests quiet. This was quite hard however as he was very excited - this being the first lion sighting we've had in the park since 2005!
The lion was just sitting there underneath a tree only eight metres away from the road. Luckily he did not seem at all bothered by us and we radioed back to camp to let our other guests know so that they could have a chance to see him as well. All in all, we enjoyed viewing him for a good 25 minutes before he moved off.
As this was the first sighting we decided on a name for the big cat: Titus - a cool name for a lion. Hopefully we'll see Titus more often now after making this first contact.