Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lions at Chief’s Camp in the Okavango Delta

DSC08541 Lion face closeup sooc

We were still reveling in the glory of our morning with the elephants in Stanley’s Camp when it was time to race back in order to catch the plane to the second destination of our African safari. We flew from the southern tip to the central part of Chief’s Island, the largest island in the Okavango Delta (see map here).

Chief’s Camp is located in Botswana’s national park called the Moremi Game Reserve. The government has done an impressive job of sustaining low impact eco-tourism here.

Within minutes of arriving at the Chief’s Camp airstrip we stopped to admire this Grey Go-Away bird whose alarm call sounds like “Go-away!”:

DSC08277 Grey Go-away Bird

Less than ten minutes later, our guide Poniso stopped the Landcruiser abruptly and killed the engine. “A lion”, I whispered in awe.

DSC08279 Lion and Lioness in shade

DSC08281 lion

“No, two lions”, my son whispered back. Sure enough, in the shadow of the bush, I saw her.

DSC08280 lioness

“Maybe we’ll see some action”, Poniso said hopefully. Almost as if on cue, the lion gave a huge MGM roar …

DSC08284 Lion growl

… and sidled up to the lioness …

DSC08285 Lion and Lioness

… but she had a headache and high-tailed it out of there.

DSC08295 lioness

DSC08296 Lion tail

Dejected, the lion hobbled across the road with a pronounced limp. Poniso told us that this lion sustained a serious injury to his hind leg during a fight about a year ago. Amazingly, it looks like Tripod, as the locals call him, will survive the injury.

DSC08297 Tripod the lion limping

Suddenly we heard another roar, but not from Tripod. We all snapped our heads back to the same bush and saw another male:

DSC08298 MGM growl

Poniso told us that this is Tripod’s brother, the new alpha male. The urge to name them Mufasa and Scar is overwhelming.

DSC08304 Lion

That night we heard a lion roar in the not-too-far distance while we lay in bed. We were filled with anticipation for our morning drive.


DSC08321 lion tracks

Poniso found lion tracks as soon as we got on the road. The left hind leg left an unsteady print – it must be Tripod’s. It was disconcerting to see Poniso lean so far over the Landcruiser's door, seemingly driving blindly down the dirt roads. But this was his home camp and he knew these roads like the back of his hand. Merely ten minutes later, we saw Tripod posing magnificently in the early light of the sunrise.
His regal indifference to our presence was perplexing. Poniso told us that it took a few years before the animals stopped running away each time they heard the Landcruisers. Now they have learned to trust the vehicles as if they were another benign species in the delta. The minute anyone steps out of the vehicle, or even stands up, the animals go on high alert because we would now read as threat. We witnessed this when Poniso had to get out of the car a couple of times to reset the two-way radio controller located under the hood. Thus as long as we stayed seated, didn't make any sudden movements, and kept silent, Tripod permitted us to snap photo...

DSC08517 Lion

... after photo ...

DSC08518 Lion head profile

... after photo ...

DSC08521 Lion face closeup sooc

DSC08535 Lion face profile

He even gave us a good-morning roar...

DSC08534 Lion roar

...astounding us all with his majestic presence.
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