Friday, June 28, 2013

Big Day Number Two

Our guide Water suddenly leaned forward, alert and listening intently.  "Can you hear it?  Shush and you'll hear the roar of a lion in the distance."  We had been peacefully watching a small herd of Red Lechwe, the first time we'd seen them up close, but all of a sudden our adrenalin was pumping.  Water started off quickly in the direction where he'd heard the roar.  We were driving quickly and in our path we saw a pond of fairly deep water.  But Water simply said "Get everything off the floor", and took off through the water.  The front foot well was awash and the water was midway up the doors.  Sure enough, Wayne had to lift his feet to the dashboard to avoid getting soaked.  The Land Rover we were in had a totally watertight engine casing and a 'snorkel' to feed air into the engine.  Here's a picture of the vehicle behind us plowing through.

OK, enough about cars and getting there.  Let's get on to the exciting stuff.  Water had judged things well when he took off in the direction of the roar, because in about 10 minutes we came upon a lioness.  Since she was in a fairly open space, we had a good view of her and watched her for about 15 minutes.

But Water was getting even more exciting news on the radio, about three new male lions who had entered that area of Okavango.  Before the arrival of these three, the area had seven lions: a pride consisting of one male, two females, and two cubs, plus one lone female with a male cub, 'boy' as Water called him.  Now the balance would be upset as these three brothers would want to kill the male cubs and take over the pride.

So we raced toward the position described on the radio, slamming through a couple more water pools. As we got closer, even we could hear the roars of these new lions.  Finally, we arrived in position to see the lone female and her cub scuttling along in front of us seeking refuge in the long grass to hide from these interlopers.  She looked very worried and kept glancing behind her; Water said she had good reason to be nervous, because her 'boy' was vey vulnerable.  She slipped by too fast to get a picture.

Then we saw the three male lions emerge from the underbrush, walking in single file, heads aloft and looking quite majestic.  

By this time the number of vehicles was up to eight, and Water did a great job of getting us a good position, and then judging the right moment to race ahead and leapfrog the other vehicles and get ahead of the lions.  We saw them peeing to mark the territory, and sniffing where the female had peed, clearly in a mood to hunt the young male and kill it.  We continued to watch, chase, and watch again for over an hour.  The animals were magnificent to watch, and awesome when they roared their announcement that they'd arrived.  Those roars, so near by really soaked right into your bones.

We sat mesmerized for over an hour, getting many wonderful pictures of this impressive trio.  These are a few of my favourites:

These guides are amazing in getting in position in front of the animals to watch them approaching, and co-operating to not disturb other people watching, and, most importantly, to not interfere with what the animals are trying to do.  In one case in Elephant Plains, we actually backed off and left in order to not interfere with their hunt.

Our guide Water was pretty excited too, albeit a bit worried about the effect on 'their' lions.  He and I celebrated as we arrived back at the camp.

Alas, all good things must end, and we had to return to the lodge.  But we'd once again had the luckiest day in Xakanaxa for a long time, seeing these magnificent beasts on their first day of arrival.

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