Reflecting on an incredible week of game drives I was able to witness a couple of months I thought I would share a few in particular here. I was lucky enough to experience two events that I might never get to witness again. No words can describe what unfolded before our eyes over a 24-hour period, but I will try to do it justice by including photos, videos and first-hand accounts from everyone that was on the vehicle.
One afternoon we went in search of a coalition of lions that have been making a name for themselves of late, the Plain’s Camp Males. From what we had heard after the morning drive, we knew that they had been feeding on a buffalo calf, so would very likely be in a similar area to the morning. After tracking them for about 45 minutes we eventually found them lying in the shade near a waterhole, full bellies and content. They had obviously gone for a drink after gorging themselves throughout the morning. The two lying fast asleep in the shade until two unsuspecting, adult zebras came for a drink during the warm afternoon heat. I am sure you might be able to see where this is going…
Had these zebras both been in good condition, I am sure the lions would have watched them have a drink and then disappear into the distance without showing too much interest as they were already so full, however, one zebra seemed to have a severely injured leg and was struggling to walk. After watching the zebra hobble around for a good hour or so, and waiting for the sun to dip below the horizon, both lions got up and started to stalk. It was game on… They got within about 10 metres of the injured individual until one leapt onto the rump of the zebra and pulled it down whilst the other tackled it around the neck and brought it to the ground. It wasn’t long before the zebra draw its last breath and it was all over.
The emotions in the vehicle were mixed, from excitement and adrenaline to sorrow and despair. It was an amazing feat to witness but one couldn’t help but feel heartache for the zebra. At the end of the day, the zebra was quite clearly in a lot of pain and the lions played a part in their ecological role in nature by removing sick or wounded individuals from the population.
Fast forward 20 hours and its time to head out on our next afternoon drive, leopards are on the agenda – more specifically a female leopard who we suspect had given birth to at least one cub within the last week (we know this because 8 days prior she was heavily pregnant, and the next day she was seen with a very loose belly and heavy milk pouch.
As we drive out of camp and head down towards the river we spot the exact leopard we were hoping to find, walking across the sand – success! None of us expected her to be here, it was quite far away from where we assumed she was keeping her cubs, but – she was steadily heading in that direction, could she be going back to the suspected den site?
After following her for about 20 minutes, we looped far up ahead of her to switch off our engine, give her space and await her arrival at the granite boulders which she has previously used to den her cubs. Was this really going to happen? Everyone was dead silent as we watched her slowly walk up the drainage line towards the boulders, and then she started to contact call for her cub – it was happening… I couldn’t believe it.
A quick disclaimer, amongst all of the euphoria that we were experiencing, none of us wanted to move a muscle in order to grab a device to capture the moment, not even our phones! In some ways, it seemed more important to be in the moment and really just absorb everything around us, a scene like this is playing out in front of you is a once in a lifetime experience. What it does mean is that we have 2 fairly grainy images of the occasion taken from a guests phone, so please excuse the quality.
Rob and Tracey, long time repeat guests describe their 24 hours as follows:
“We experienced the full circle of life within 24 hours. From an injured zebra mercifully being killed by lions – with feelings of sadness & difficulty to observe – to the joyful sighting of a 7-day old leopard cub being carried & carefully moved by its mother – feelings of amazement, miracles and personal impact, firmly bringing us fully into the moment & giving perspective to what’s really important in this manic world.”
I went to bed that night with perspective, I was reminded that we as humans are insignificant in the greater scheme of things. Nature is raw, it is harsh at times but it can be beautiful and gentle too. I might never get to witness events like these again, but I’m extremely grateful to have been reminded that there are still some truly wild places on this earth, I am lucky enough to live and work in one of them.