Although staying in a luxury lodge has its perks, it is really getting out into the bush that soothes my soul and makes me happy. During a recent lodge visit, we had only just driven out when we encountered a small breeding herd. Very relaxed and busy eating they were not interested in a vehicle full of humans. Some guests would have been ticking these off as one of the ‘Big 5’ but I like to refer to them as either dangerous or iconic game species. ‘Big 5’ harks back to the early days of hunting when these species were on the list as they were perceived to be the most dangerous to hunt on foot. It became a marketing tool for most lodges and trying to alter that perception is proving to be very difficult. As a guide, if you were to say to a guest “We have 5 species of dangerous animals in our reserve”, that would probably be followed by the guests asking “Yes, but do you have the Big 5”? Add cheetah and wild dog to that and the list becomes the Magnificent 7 and many guests also want to see zebra and giraffe…what would that be called? The Magical 9? But I digress…we were headed out to look for one specific species on this particular drive…so we said goodbye to the elephants and drove off.
The first inkling that we got that there was a carcass nearby, aside from the smell, was flocks of various vulture species, like this Hooded Vulture, perched on nearby trees and sitting next to a waterhole that was close by.
After a lioness that I found in the Waterberg some years ago, this is the second biggest female I have come across. Adding to her size was the fact that she, together with her pride, had spent two days gorging on a buffalo carcass. It seems that she had had enough protein and had moved away from the kill to be nearer to a waterhole that was relatively close by.
This was the second clue to the fact that we were getting closer to our objective. Flies! Thousands of them. Normally they tend to buzz around and irritate humans, but in this instance, they were focused on the enormous amount of meat that was still left on the deceased buffalo.
When Uber Eats does not deliver and you have to make your own plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Which is just what this pride had been doing for the past few days. This was not the entire pride as our guide mentioned that there was a female and some cubs not present at this feast when we stopped by. There were a few minutes when we had to get used to the smell, but once used to that it did not bother us and we were able to sit and enjoy watching lions do second best…eat (Top is of course sleep!)
From a photographic perspective, the lighting was spectacular and this particular male looked as if he had just returned from a hairdressing salon. A BEAUTIFUL boy…and he knew it.
#thiscarcassismine? No claws as all the animals were so full that there was no need to fight for the remaining parts of the carcass still on offer. In fact, we could hear the tearing of the flesh and the crunching of the bones in the silence.
Dad and junior share a moment with no animosity.
Tiny teeth that will one day turn into huge canines that will be able to bring down their own prey.
Ageing adult canines often get broken for a variety of reasons. In this image, you can clearly see that the lower canine is missing the tip.
This was a funny moment that had our entire vehicle burst into spontaneous laughter. The lion got a mouthful of grass with his meat and could not get rid of it quickly enough. This was the resultant face as he tried to spit out the “vegetables”.
I did mention earlier about the flies…but they did not seem to bother the ‘hero’ of this story.
Darkness in the bush arrives with a speed that can catch the unwary off guard. The sun does not gently sink below the horizon, but rather it tends to get to a point and then crashes out of sight. Sitting quietly in post-sunset darkness, knowing that there are feeding lions close by, as well as a plethora of other predators and prey about to cross paths is a humbling experience.
One last encounter with one of the females before we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and that it was time to head back to the lodge. As they say in Afrikaans “MÔRE IS NOG ‘N DAG” (Tomorrow is another day)
My wife and I last visited here in 2016 and this semi-formal glass-enclosed lounge had not been built then. A warm and welcoming space to enjoy a drink or share a socially distanced post-game drive story before heading off to either the nearby bar or the boma for dinner.
Waiting for the guests to arrive. Given the reduced numbers in camp, there is more than enough space to maintain the 2m distance that the COVID-19 protocols insist on.
And staying with the James Bond theme…” I’ll have mine shaken and not stirred”.
An what better way to end off another day in paradise? Gathered around a roaring fire, sharing stories and enjoying good food, great wine and the best company.
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