Ben Reports from the Okavango Photo Safari ~ At Savute: Lions and Vultures …
We wanted to make the most of our final full day at Savute and set out towards the Marsh area to find the lions we saw in the vicinity yesterday.
When we came to a waterhole with crystal clear water with a pink sky patterning in the blue water, completed by a herd of buffalo reflecting in the water. To complete the picture, skeletons of gnarled dead Apple-leaf Trees created amazing compositions that we photographed again and again.
We stopped again on the way to the marsh – this time to photograph some Bradfield Hornbills, and while the vehicle was turned off we heard roaring coming directly, from the marsh. We could locate the direction of the sound and drove that way immediately. As we entered the marsh we immediately saw a massive congregation of vultures in trees, on the ground, milling around. This meant one thing – there was a kill – and because the vultures were on the kill, the lions were in absentia.
We found the lions about a kilometre away, and as we debated what to do next, the lions started to move back to the kill that was very close to us. The two lionesses, one adult male accompanied by cubs advanced closer and closer until they were just there! When in striking range, one of the lionesses dashed at the mass of vultures, that took off in unison. We managed to capture the running lioness with about a hundred vultures taking to the air ahead of her. A great scene!
The lions ignored the kill … in any case, there was very little left of the remains … and they preceded with lots of bonding, with head rubbing and mutual grooming. They ambled across the marsh as they did this, giving us time to keep pulling ahead for images as they approached us and continued their interactions. We stayed ahead of the cats until they had crossed tight across the marsh.
As our little procession made its way to shade on the edge of the marsh, we noticed that a brother of the male lion was keeping a discreet distance … we surmised that one of the females is about to come into oestrus. When they stopped at two pools to drink, the adults drank from one pool and the cubs from another.
After a quick cup of coffee we returned to the Lodge for lunch.
This afternoon we set out to photograph Bradfield’s Hornbills flying around and a paint sitting on a dead tree. One was lifting his head and calling repeatedly – that lovely, rather complex melodious piping call that typifies the species.
When we returned to the lions they were exhausted from their early exertions and disinclined to move at all. One of our vehicles bypassed the hyena den where four young pups cavorted in the late afternoon sun, while we stopped to photograph a particularly cooperative Lilac-breasted roller.
Tomorrow morning is our final morning here and there is one last game drive before we set off for home …