With the Ntsevu lionesses spending more and more time on Londolozi during the past few weeks and the Birmingham male lions always on their periphery of the pride, it has made for some amazing lion viewing.
One afternoon, fellow ranger Nick Sims and I had the afternoon off, and decided to head out into the bush to see what we could see. The Ntsevu pride had been found earlier that morning and we were lucky enough to find them again in the same place; 4 females, 12 cubs and 3 males lying up in an acacia thicket. Two of the females were absent.
The females got up soon after we arrived, leaving the cubs and males behind. The Males soon followed however, so we now had 7 adult lions walking in a long line together. With extremely empty bellies and the sun starting to set below the low hanging clouds, we were sure that they only had one intention; to hunt.
After following them for quite some time, we decided that it was going to be a long night ahead, and we went back to camp for a quick dinner. We had every intention of going back out to find them and follow them for the night. With very little convincing needed back at camp, James Tyrrell joined us and we set off to find the pride once again. We had an idea as to which way they were going but their tracks were much harder to spot in the dark and our one spot light. We stopped at tracks of a male that looked fresh to discuss our strategy. Against the silence of the night thanks to the switched off engine we suddenly heard the crunch of a bone. About 20 meters from us, in a dense grassy area, was one of the male lions feeding on an impala head. We watched him as he slowly chewed on the jaw bone. But where was the rest of the pride?
Whilst we watched him we heard another male lion calling a few kilometers away. We drove in his direction and due to some great spotlight work from James, who was on the tracker seat by now, we spotted the second male. Was he fresh on the females’ trail? The puzzle pieces seemed to slowly be coming together or at least we thought so. Adamant to find the rest of the pride, we followed him. But we soon noticed he wasn’t too sure of the path he wanted to take just yet. We left him and pushed ahead on our own hunt for the pride.
Two hours had now passed and with fresh tracks, hope was almost lost. I’m not sure if it was out of pure stubbornness or that feeling of finding that corner piece of the puzzle, but we decided to give it one last shot. We went down a road that was about 5 km from where we first saw the tracks. Just after turning onto it, Nick – who had just driven James into the overhanging branches of a buffalo thorn tree, but in his defense he had been scanning intently for the lions and hadn’t seen it – turned the corner to find, right in the middle of the road, a lioness. She was walking straight towards us, her mouth and face covered in of blood, and she was heading in the same direction of where she had left the cubs earlier that afternoon. We still needed to find the other 3 females and one other male. As we moved up towards the clearing, 2 more females with red faces came strolling along their sister’s path and there suddenly, straight ahead of us, was a wildebeest carcass and the last male. We all celebrated as if our team had just won the World Cup.
They had made a kill while we were following the tracks, fed on most of the meat and the males had now just come in to finish the remains. The story unfolded and the feeling of finding them that night still gets me excited. It took a little patience, a lot of determination and persistence, but it allowed us to watch and enjoy three mighty brothers feeding on a carcass together. A rare sight on its own.
The females made their way back to the cubs, full bellied and ready for their hungry cubs to suckle. Although we never saw the actual kill take place, we were extremely lucky to follow the journey of a hunting pride of lions from 3pm to 10pm. A night I will never forget and a story I will always tell.