Behind the Shot | JP Marx and the Mantimahle Males
Back in February, the Mantimahle Coalition ventured into the Sabi Sand Reserve from their usual territory in the neighbouring Kruger National Park. These males are a powerful coalition of 5 lions expanding their territory to unknown bounds. Lion Sands Field Guide JP Marx, pictured in this photo alongside the coalition, commented that seeing a coalition of this size is a truly special occurrence, and that he had never felt the intimidation and power of a lion so much as in this moment. JP shares with us the story behind the photo.
“This sighting was the first time I had ever seen these males, and in fact, the first time ever seeing a coalition of this size. At the time, I was a relatively new guide to the Lion Sands team, and on this afternoon I took my first game drive into the neighbouring property, Tulon. I was following up on male leopard tracks next to the Sand River. Over the radio I heard someone call in a lion; so my tracker, Andries and I were on the lookout for lions as well.
Eventually I spotted one male lion drinking water from the river far in the distance. I drove around looking for a way to get closer to him. It was only when I reached the bank at the top that I saw there were two male lions together. These lions were big, beautiful and in top condition. I radioed for permission to drive all the way down to the river along the bank. As I dropped down, we saw another male lion! The three lions in view made their way from the island across the river towards us. Then to my absolute disbelief another two heads with huge sets of manes popped up. I simply could not believe that I was looking at a coalition of 5 huge male lions.
They started approaching the vehicle, and I called for Andries to join me in the vehicle. Heart racing and adrenaline pumping, I was actually very nervous, especially as they approached so closely. With the height of the slope, they were above eye level. Two of them were skittish, while the other three walked with confidence. I wondered how they were going to react to us given what a mighty force they were. Had they ever lost a fight? I doubted it. They have the numbers and strength on their side.
I made eye contact with one of them and could feel the wildness in his eyes. I could even hear them breathing as they were walking past. It was the kind of sighting that makes such a profound impact, not just from what I saw, but what I felt – the excitement, the fear, the awe of it all. It was a very special moment in my guiding career.”
Since this sighting, the Mantimahle lions, which now travel together as a group of four, have made several more action-packed appearances at Lion Sands. To read about another sighting when tensions ran high amongst the Mantimhale lions on a carcass, check out JP’s blog.
Words By: Charlotte Arthun
Photos by: Eckson Sithole and JP Marx