Machaba: Three Lions Cause a Wildlife Stampede after a Swim In the Dark

Brendon Reports from Machaba Reserve:

We all arrived at the Machaba Camp in time for a very welcome lunch, and after we had settled in, and a briefing, we were more than ready for our first game drive.

We were told that lions had been seen not too far away from the camp this morning, and we set out with high expectations.

We had hardly left the camp area when we found them – two lionesses and a young male. The afternoon light was just perfect, and we stopped for some excellent shots of the trio as they lounged around, lazily looking around from time to time, sometimes lifting a head or maybe a paw.

In fact, the photography was so good that we spent the entire afternoon with the three. As the afternoon advanced, they started to stretch, yawn widely again and again, and then fell to grooming one another, with our cameras clicking away almost non-stop.

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When the grooming finished, the three lions got up lazily and began to move around. They strolled along, choosing mostly wide open spaces, again giving us the most delightful shots as we followed them, occasionally pulling ahead of them to capture those great images of them walking towards us. The late afternoon light seemed to just get more and more glorious as time passed.

Then suddenly it was dark and out came our spotlights for backlit and side lit photographs.

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By now the trio had reached the Khwai River, and realising that they intended to cross the river, we drove straight into the water!

What an incredible experience it was to see the three lions swimming next to us through the deep water in the darkness. We made sure that those spotlights allowed us to capture each thrilling second of that swim.

The lions reached the far bank of the river, but we were unable to follow because of the depth of the river, and we returned to the bank we had left.

We had just reached the bank when a massive commotion broke out across the river. And it became clear why the lions had undertaken that swim in the darkness. The far bank was on an island – and the island was teeming with game! The amazing sounds that ensued left us sitting wide-eyed with amazement as shadows appeared and disappeared from view across the water. There went zebras in one direction, then they hurtled in the opposite direction, squealing warthogs dashed in and out of view, the noise piercing the night air, wildebeest lumbered in all directions. We strained our eyes, trying to make sense of the fleeting shadows and incredible cacophony.

It was beyond words. Sitting there in the pitch dark, listening to the drama unfolding a few meters away is an unforgettable experience.

Even now, back at the camp, ready for our starlit dinner, we remain awe-struck at what we heard, and almost saw ..

Tomorrow we would like to head straight back to the same area – maybe the lions made a kill …