Dean de la Rey and I were out early, hoping to find the Mhangeni pride which no one had found the previous evening. They had been down in the southern grasslands, but their last tracks had disappeared into a sea of Red Grass, Themeda triandra, and it had gotten too dark to continue the search.
To our delight, the next morning we bumped into them quite by chance, right out in the open amongst some scattered Round-Leaved Teak bushes:
At first the pride was fast asleep, apart from a single cub that insisted on clambering over the other lions between bouts of playing with some elephant dung.
Barely two minutes later though, the first tell-tale yawns came from some of the adult lioness, and within a very short space of time, the pride was on the move towards a waterhole only about a hundred metres away.
Dean and I raced up ahead to wait by the shallow pan in the anticipation of the lions all drinking, and we weren’t disappointed:
The first lioness comes to the water. Ideally in this shot it would have been better if the lioness’s ears were included, as well as her full head in the reflection, but the lens was too long!
We were fortunate to have one of the females line up with us front-on.
Having much shorter legs than the adults, the cubs were forced to get their paws properly muddied in order to get to the water.
Despite having lots of space to choose from, prides – especially cubs – will generally drink right alongside each other. We were hoping for he whole pride to line up together, but their drinking was a bit more staggered.
The Othawa male followed behind the pride and was ambushed by some of the cubs as he approached the water. I love the fully black paw you can see on the leaping cub here.
The ambush didn’t quite go as planned though, and both cubs took a tumble.
Although the reflection makes the water look fairly clean, it isn’t, and the lions are still fairly selective about which points they drink from…
The Othawa male continued to be harassed by the cubs as he moved round to drink from a different position.
Dean de la Rey and a close encounter. Our vehicle offered the best shade around and after drinking the lions realised this and the whole pride came to lie right alongside us. It was breathtaking looking into their eyes from barely two metres away. After a few minutes they decided they weren’t happy that close to the Land Rover and as we sat very still, they filtered away to lie behind to a termite mound instead.