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.


CC said...

Dear DB,
I love this post so much. The Lion photos are magnificent. What you've written about the Lions tolerating the vehicles is not surprising having watched the incredible film of the 2 Aussies, back in the 1970's who purchased, raised and released (in Africa) the Lion they called Christian and how he remembered them when they returned a year or so later. If you haven't seen it

Thanks so much for sharing!

LoisW said...

National Geographic, here you come. Beautiful!! Lucky you!

Sherri said...

What an amazing trip!

Kala said...

Spectacular captures of the lion!

gel said...

My mouth is in my throat. So exciting, so unusual, so thrilling to be so close to such a magnificent animal. In my dreams, I have hoped to do what you have done. On top of that your photos are amazing!

margie said...

what a fabulous experience.

beth said...

what is it about lions today ?
your's look happier than my caged one though..that's for sure !

don't you just love them ? if they didn't have the ability to kill me, I'd have one as a pet :)

Ruth said...

I chortled at the headache and oohed and ahed at the rest, showing Don the photos too. Lion heads are so beautiful! That first portrait of Tripod is something, his eyes matching his top crop and ear, quite handsome. And the Go-Away bird is stunning.

I'm happy to hear Botswana maintains good low-impact eco-tourism. Good for them, for you, and for Tripod and his pride.

Unknown said...

Such amazing shots! What an adventure! Stay safe, please.

rochambeau said...

Dear Dutchbaby,
You are such an adventurer! Always having an adventure. Thank you taking me on the photo safari and for sharing Tripod and the lioness with us. This is really amazing to have the chance to see.


Marilyn Miller said...

Yes, your lion looks like he is almost smiling for you. They are just beautiful!

PeterParis said...

Amamzing photos! Must be an uforgettable experience!

Johnny Nutcase said...

Wooowww! Awesome post! You guys seem to have quite the experience there, that's so great! These pictures are just excellent. Im so jealous!!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear CC,
Thank you so much for that great link! I watched it several times, tears running down my face each time.

Dear MAWB,
If only I would learn to watch my camera settings. I realized too late that I had my the auto-exposure set at +2 for about a day and half.

Dear Postcards and Coasters,
Does your airline fly to Africa? Amazing place to travel!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Kala,
Thanks for the compliment!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear gel,
It truly was a thrill to be so close to these creatures. I hope one day you will have a chance to experience it too.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Margie,
Yes, it was a spectacular moment.

Dear beth,
Lion synchronicity - who would have guessed? I was very impressed how happy all the animals there looked.

I'm trying to visualize how many pounds of raw meat you would have to have on hand to keep your pet lion in good health...

Dear Ruth,
I'm flattered you shared my post with Don. I agree that lions are incredibly beautiful. I understand why they are often used as a subject in sculptures around the world (think New York Public Library).

I am super-duper proud of my Grey Go-Away bird photo. It flew away soon after this shot. Of course, I did not get the shot of it flying - that is beyond my capabiilty.

We were most impressed with Botswana; I would go back every summer if I could.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Susan,
It's odd, but I only felt nervous once during the trip and that was when an elephant started to charge us when Poniso had to reset the radio under the hood. The lions never worried me; they always seemed drunk with drowsiness. I may have been more worried if we encountered them during their waking hours at night.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Constance,
Thank you for coming along on our journey!

Thank you also for helping me with some wedding details for my sister-in-law!

Dear Marilyn,
I'm convinced that Tripod was posing for us.

Dear Peter,
Welcome to Dutchbaby! It was truly an unforgettable experience! I'm glad I'm able to share it.

Dear Johnny Nutcase,
I wonder if Botswana needs two very capable field biologists soon??? I would love to see the photos you and your husband would shoot there.

Jeannette StG said...

Amazing and fascinating pics, Dutchbaby! I love lion photos!
Can't wait to see the pics my brother took when he was in Kruger park (South Africa) a few months ago.

Relyn Lawson said...

Oh, I loved this illustrated post. So completely amazing!!!! I love to think of you in Botswana in complete awe.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear jeannette,
I bet your brother will bring back some great shots from there. Plus I think he will have some leopard shots too. We did not get to see one in Botswana.

Dear Relyn,
I was either grinning from ear to ear or with my jaw gaped open the entire time I was there.

Parag said...

Beneath the towering trees and on the open grasslands an abundance of antelope and smaller mammals attracts in turn a particularly large number of predators.
Okavango Delta Camp

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Parag,
Yes, it takes a full, healthy ecosystem to sustain these magnificent animals.

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