(Photos from back of Bens Camera)
What a fabulous, amazing, truly awesome, busy day we had today …
The day started chilly but clear. We heard about a pride of lions as we prepared to start our morning game drive. We were told that they were moving through the bush, and although it was dark, we knew that sunrise was not that far off, and we quickly made our way to the pride.
By the time we reached the lions the sun was peeking above the horizon. Just then we heard a hyena calling in distress. The lions had tracked a Spotted Hyena and killed it moments before we caught up with them. The lions abandoned the untouched carcass of the hyena in a dry riverbed and went to lie on the sloping bank above, where they settled in patches of early sunlight.
Then a young lion aged about six to nine months went down to the carcass and started to play with it. Shafts of sunlight pierced the trees and lit the almost unbelievable scene of the lion tossing the remains of an arch-rival through the air before pouncing on it, dragging it around and then throwing it into the air again and again. The dust with the dappled sunlight made the scene look quite unreal. What an incredible sight it was! You can imagine how many nonstop photographs we took of the action.
Eventually the lion became bored with his game and went to lie on the bank where he fell asleep.
Soon after we came across a male leopard perched on top of a warthog burrow. He stared intently at the entrance to the burrow, and didn’t even look up when we arrived. We waited, hoping that the warthog would emerge, but unfortunately time ran out and we needed to return to the Lodge. We later heard that the warthog never came out, but the leopard was seen disappearing into the burrow. He never reappeared, so no-one knows what actually transpired there …
We returned to the leopard in the afternoon and found him dozing in some shade. Shortly after we arrived he went to lie on the termite mound, about ten meters away from us and in full view. He was very casual and relaxed and ignored our presence other than the occasional cursory glance. He fell asleep on the mound, then woke, moved slightly, looked around and went back to sleep. We were able to capture some great full-frame portrait shots of the big cat.
Eventually we left, and decided to return a little later, just before sunset. We timed it beautifully, with the leopard on the termite mound in the foreground and the iridescent setting sun behind. We exposed for the sun and used fill-in flash for the cat. Then he stretched, yawned, strolled down from the termite mound and disappeared into the bush.
We received a call that the lions from the morning were on the move again. We found them just after sunset, and we realised that they were hunting. Of course this meant that our lights were all switched off so as not to interfere with the hunt, and we could see mysterious shapes moving around. We waited quietly, and listened intently to any activity. Then we heard impala alarm calls and the sounds of running and crashing through the bush. The sounds were coming closer and closer – surely we would see something at any moment. The sounds were almost upon us when we heard the unmistakable sounds that meant that the kill had taken place – a few meters from where we still sat in the darkness, straining our eyes to pick out the shapes. We could make out that an impala ram had been caught by the lions. Once we were sure that the hunt was definitely over we turned on the lights and saw the incredible sight of eleven ravenous lions ripping and feeding, snarling and growling as they each tried to secure a portion of the meal for themselves. The frenzy, activity, and sounds were quite intimidating, and many scraps broke out, with dust flying, teeth bared, swipes and punches, as they bickered over every scrap.
After this everyone was happy to return to the Lodge after the intensity of that incredible experience that will be a memory for many years to come.
Tomorrow we would like to track that male leopard again …