A memorable last morning

A memorable last morning

February 2019 | David & Christine Sewell

It was the final game drive of our safari. It was also 6:15 a.m., relatively cold, and there was only the faintest hint of dawn in the sky. “Let’s go for lions” said William, our driver. We gave grunts that a charitable William interpreted as “OK” and set off. Go for lions we did, but it was the black-backed jackals and spotted hyaenas that we noticed first, anxiously circling two lionesses at a kill.

As far as we could piece it together, during the night some female lions had taken a fairly small kill, possibly a wildebeest calf, off a hyaena. When we arrived, one of the two lionesses was leaving, and the remaining one was chewing on a leg bone, which seemed to be all that was left. The jackals were getting bold, and one approached the lioness quite closely. The hyaenas, on the other hand, were still keeping a respectful distance.

I took a few shots of the lioness, but the light was still too poor for photography. We decided to head down to the rock where we had watched the cubs being suckled the previous day, but on the way ran into a pride male, who was seeking his females. He was plainly a lion on a mission, and was, we suspected, very disappointed to find nothing left to eat. He took his frustration out by roaring at the hyaenas, who were still keeping their distance. We suspected they had seen him in this mood before. We returned to where the cubs were hidden, and saw one of the females suckling a cub.

Next we went to where Fig the leopard and her cub were holed up for the day. Nothing was happening here, so we left them in peace and went in pursuit of the cheetahs instead.

The coalition of five males, known variously as the Fast Five or the Five Musketeers, was found walking across the open plains, and again clearly had a purpose. For a moment we thought they may be about to hunt, but they were not heading towards any quarry that we could see. The mystery was solved when they turned into the valley and went down to a stream to drink. Two drank right in front of us, with one looking up from time to time and giving us a hard stare. We took the hint and left them in peace.

We were not far from Lion Camp, but the morning was still not finished. A small pool held a couple of hyaenas, who were taking their morning bath. They were behaving in character, dive bombing each other and splashing about as much as they could. I was reminded of rowdy teenagers in a swimming pool.

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