Wim’s News from the Wildebeest Migration Safari: Lionesses Manoeuvre to Save their Cubs
After those exciting crossings yesterday morning we could hardly wait to get back to the river to see if a further buildup of animals would get the animals into a position where they would face the rigours of the river, but as always in the bush, there was plenty of action before we even arrived there.
The day dawned with not a cloud in sight, and that is how it remained for most of the time.
Now, to set the scene: A few days ago four new male lions moved into the area and they have gradually displaced the resident males from their prides.
This morning, as we travelled along we found five subadult lions – around 11 months old by now – hiding in some thickish bushes. They were extremely skittish, bewildered, and very afraid. In fact, when a herd of elephants arrived and chased them, the lions scattered, quite terrified. There had been eight young lions and it would appear that the four newcomers have already disposed of three of them.
Very close by we found the reminder of their pride. And what happened next had us wide-eyed, but luckily we kept our wits about us enough to capture the whole event.
The remnants of the pride now consisted of two lionesses and three cubs, aged about eight months. Suddenly two of the ‘new’ intruder male lions arrived. They are both huge, and one in particular has a massive mane to match his large frame and dominant demeanour. He is a fabulous specimen, in the prime of his life, about seven years old.
As the lionesses saw the two very confident males approaching, the one dashed forward to head them off. The dominant male started to chase her, they hurtled across a clearing and it wasn’t long before he had caught her, and they rolled around on the ground. Then he stood up over her, in every way the superior, powerful in attitude and in size. She was very submissive, and kept his attention on her as they played out the dominance/submissive scene.
What the male did not realise was that this smart female had lured him away from the cubs, and while he was chasing her, the second lioness herded the cubs to safety, out of sight, over the crest of the hill.
And the second guy? He just lay down and watched everything play out in front of him. He definitely noted the path taken by the lioness with the cubs, and possibly will plan a later manoeuvre in that direction.
With all this incredible interaction and excitement, we arrived at the river quite late, and almost immediately witnessed a double crossing. This occurs when the animals become confused, and having crossed the river, they double back and swim back to where they came from, only to have to make the crossing yet again. The confusion of wildebeest and zebras swimming in all directions created quite a spectacle, although the numbers were not huge.
We stopped for lunch in the wide open air.
The plains are filled with animals as far as the eye can see. We had a lovely vantage point and were looking at the sheer numbers that have arrived there, when suddenly a huge commotion broke out and animals fled in all directions.
The cause of the pandemonium was a pair of lions moving steadfastly through the wildebeest, zebras, and Tommies, clearly hunting. Then they focussed on one wildebeest and went after it – but failed in their attempt.
By now the sun was high in the sky and it was too hot to continue the hunt. The lions retired under a shady tree, hot and bothered, while the remainder of the animals continued with their grazing.
We heard that there was a crossing building up at Fig Tree, a spot where the animals often choose to make the crossing. Nothing really came of it and we saw only three zebras taking on the challenges of the river.
We headed back to camp as it is quite a distance from Fig Tree. The sky was quite fabulous again.
And to end our prefect day, what did we find, but a beautiful leopard in a tree. This rounded off our Big Five sightings. So not only are we thrilled with the spectacular encounters and dramas all around and all day long, we can tick off our Bg Five for this safari.
Our camp – Kichwa Themba