Lions moving through water. The Money Shot. I don’t know what it is about a photo of a lion or lions wading across a river – no matter how shallow – that is so appealing, yet this is the photograph we’re all after. Maybe it’s just the fact that lions and water seem so at odds with one another, maybe it’s the rarity of the event.
I certainly believe that there’s something in the seeming contradiction of the lion-water combination that holds the allure.
Whatever it is, we almost struck pure gold a couple of days ago, when 17 lions from the Ntsevu Pride and Birmingham Coalition were lined up at the Causeway, seemingly debating whether or not to cross. We were rushing out to view the Tsalala lioness, who had taken down a buffalo bull all by herself (more on this later), when we bumped the sighting of the Ntsevu pride approaching the Sand River:
The pride had moved off a kill early that morning and had walked a good few kilometres across Londolozi to get to the Causeway. They were lying on the road out of sight to the right of the picture when we joined the sighting, but knowing how amazing the photographs would be if they crossed, we decided to wait on the opposite bank ahead of them. After a few minutes of waiting, they got moving, and here the first ones come into view.
A couple of the adult females were leading with the cubs trailing behind.
A number of them had now moved into the reeds just behind the front lioness and to the left of her in this picture, but our hope grew as she came doggedly onwards down the Causeway.
The rest of the pride now emerged onto the Causeway and approached the water. With the water so low, lions can technically cross the river wherever they want, and aren’t limited to this concrete crossing point. In fact, it probably has the longest unbroken stretch of water around.
The pride paused at the water’s edge and started to drink. Notoriously wary of crocodiles, lions in this area are usually loathe to get their feet wet if they don’t have to.
There are 17 lions in this picture.
Once most of them had drunk their fill, the lead lioness opted not to cross the broad expanse of water, despite it being so shallow, and she led the pride off to the left into the reeds
A last look back from the last few to finish drinking.
And as usual, one of the Birmingham males was trailing behind..
17 lions coming across the Causeway towards us was almost too much to hope for, but seeing them all drinking in front of us was more than enough to make our day. And this was at 10am. Who says lions are only active at night?