A white lion is something of a genetic enigma in the wild. Not an albino, as they have blue eyes and dark lips and nose but they do have an absence of dark pigment or melanin in their skin and fur. Cubs born with this rare condition are often unlikely to survive in nature. Their light fur gives them away to predators in their formative days and even if they manage to survive this it can be difficult to hunt later on as they stand out to prey with their ghostly white coats. Some of the African tribes that call South Africa home believe that the miraculous arrival of a white lion cub is a gift from the Sun God. Certainly these rare versions of the more commonly seen tawny lions are a sight to behold.
The search for this mysterious lion took my father and I on an adventure we would never forget. We set the intention for the day to track this lion and to be lucky enough to get a glimpse of its existence. We had received information that he was last viewed on the famous S100 dirt road just a few days before. Determined and confident we left our Kruger hut at 6am that morning on November 16th. We drove down the S100 and scanned every inch of the veld. They say time flies when you’re having fun- this must have been the case for my father and I as when we looked at the clock to reassess our plan it was nearly 2:30pm. There were only 3.5 hours left before the camp gates would close for the day. We decided to head back to the camp to have a quick bite to eat. Our confidence and determination seemed to have dropped a little in relation to our beliefs of seeing this mysterious white lion today. Nevertheless we did not give up, we kept going.
With the last remaining hour and a half of driving time left for the day we decided to make one last attempt at victory for our sighting. We drove down the S41 and saw the most beautiful gatherings of plains game, a herd of elephants and a small journey of giraffes. With only 25 minutes remaining before the camp gate closes for the day we noticed a white car parked up ahead. When we pulled up next to it the gentlemen in the car was very excited to inform us he saw a pride of lions sleeping just under a tree to the left of the road. My father and I felt an incredible rush of excitement- could this be it? Could this be our pride with the rare white lion?! The clock was ticking and our friend in the white car decided to start his journey back to the camp gate – a wise decision as the fines for being late are high. Luckily for us, we knew exactly how much time we needed to make the gate as we have driven this road many times over the last few years – we knew we had a few more minutes to look. (Keeping in mind you might bump into the unexpected elephant or buffalo roadblock – so we were still taking a chance). About 2 minutes after the gentlemen in the white car drove off- the most magical occurrence unfolded. Within seconds 12 lions stood up and one by one they all walked directly towards us. They crossed the road right in front of our car. The last of the 12 lions to get up and cross the road was our miraculous white lion. He walked right in front of our vehicle and passing by slowly to join the rest of his pride. We were overwhelmed with excitement – we couldn’t believe our eyes. We finally found him and got to see him with his pride.
Seeing that the guard at the rest camp gate doesn’t give any “free passes” for a white lion sighting we knew we had to start moving to make our gate. We took a few precious photos to capture this moment and we set off back home to Satara Camp successful.