Post number 22222 will be dedicated to:Lions of the Kgalagadi
Until the 5th day being in the park we hadn’t seen a single lion and our first sighting was that of the back of a lone lioness at Kaspersdraai. Our two nights at Nossob had revealed nothing else. The Nossob pride around Mr. Handsome had left just the morning of the day we arrived and were not available for further comments. I was not amused, to put it mildly…
Our next lion encounter was at Grootkolk. Yes, Grootkolk again! This camp has been very good to us, making sure we would return. It was our first night when Spots and I awoke pretty much simultaneously by an ear shattering noise. Who the heck set the alarm so loud??? Hang on, since when did Spots or I sport a lion’s roar as an alarm sound on our respective mobiles??? Nope, don’t think either of us got that. What is then? … Lion!!!
We both raced out of bed and to the door. After Katy’s and Francolin’s adventure with the close lions at GK, I told Spots not to open the door, we needed to check where the lions were exactly. It turned out to be the majestic male on his own calling is family at this unseemly hour. He was standing right underneath the tree next to the waterhole and continued calling. Then he moved on towards unit 3 where our friends Brian and Beth were staying for that night. We communicated our joy with flashing our torches at each other. Well, the Grootkolk Majesty laid down for a bid, hardly to be seen in the spotlight anymore. At some point he got back up, went for a drink, returned to his old spot to laze around some more. Then he got up again and gazed at me. Spots had gone back to bed by then, because he was shivering. Ever heard of the invention of longsleeved shirts and trousers, Spots?
Anyway, the torch in my hand was shaking as His Majesty moved closer and closer towards our unit. I for my part moved further and further back until I had reached the door of the unit and slipped in. It does feel a bit, uhm, funny when such a big cat comes walking straight towards you! Well, he stopped short of our fence and sat down to look at me some more. Spots was standing next to me by then and we were trying the You hold the torch, I’ll take a photo thing.
But it came out in one big blurd, you can’t even see it’s lion in there. Shortly after that His Majesty got up, walked around our unit and up into the dunes behind the camp manager’s unit where they obviously have their favourite resting spot. You can’t see them from the camp access road though. Shame.
It was past 4 by now and I was wide awake. No point in trying to get back to sleep for the remaining few minutes until the alarm would go off. So I made some coffee and waited for the day to unfold. I just love sitting in the dark with hardly any noise. Grootkolk is very quiet compared to for example Kieliekrankie where the barking geckos holding concerts every night and early morning.
We left the camp at around 6.30 am and got on our way in Nossob direction. It was the day when we were supposed to meet Sharifa and Duke for breakfast at Lijiers. Just south of Kannaguass we saw a distinctive shape on the road in the distance. We pulled up and I started with a series of bumshots. Here is one of them:
We had to trail him for about 5 km as every time Spots would try to pass him, he would break into a run, well what you call a run with a lion not hunting… and switched to the other side of the road. No chance to overtake whatsoever. At least he turned half way around occasionally.
Marking his territory for the first time:
Then the second time:
And finally we got his piece of mind about us:
Seems to have some digestive problems…
Sorry, for the quality – had to take the shots through the windscreen.
At some point he went off into the dunes to look for a place to snooze off the day. After that the day went quiet except for one other special sighting, but it was not a lion, so won’t appear here.
The next day was the day when we had one of our 5 leopard sightings. He / she came at 5.30 am and we thought it safe to leave the camp and go on a drive. Bad choice… The lions – the whole family this time - were back at 7.30 am while we were looking at some passed out and far off male at Polentswa. We had seen fresh lion tracks on the access stretch to the waterhole and had scanned the area for lions.
Appearantly, there are two black-maned proper Kalahari males around Polentswa and they were pretty stationary at the time of our trip as one of them was limping. I guess it was the one we saw there because he didn’t move an inch throughout the morning. No, we didn’t sit with him all the time.
We went further south and checked back again on him again on our way back.
Having heard that we had missed the lions in the camp we didn’t go out anymore that day, but the lions didn’t show that day or evening either. We did get to see an African wild cat at the waterhole during the dark hours of the evening though!
The next morning we meant to get out of the camp at 6 am sharp as it was the day of the Nossob webcam event and we had agreed to meet Duke and Sharifa at 9 am. So we wanted to leave early to make sure we had a bit of spare time in case something crossed our way during our drive. Spots was in the bathroom and I started to load bits and pieces into the car already. He then came to help me. With some stuff in his hands he made his way to the car, only to re-appear again seconds later - his hands still full. He was not going to pack the car while the lions were in the camp, Spots announced. Say what?!?!?! Lions???
And yes, there they were walking towards the waterhole area from between unit 2 and the communal kitchen tent. Great! - the car boot was still open as was the passenger side at the back and the inquisitive lions were not even 10 metres away from it! Always wanted to have a pet lion…
The two adult mums were leading the way, followed by the two larger cubs and finally the youngster. It was too dark then for photos, but we were watching in awe. The ladies proceeded towards the dunes on the half right, while the cubs went for a drink at the waterhole. They stayed on for quite some time despite their mums having moved off. I’ll post some photos later on in a different category. At some point His Majesty graced us with his presence as well. But he only moved through the camp towards where his ladies we’re lying, without looking once. Far off, but I just adore this photo:
So we had the adult lions 100 metres away and the youngsters still at the waterhole. It was almost 6.30 am by now and we had finished packing yet, let alone gotten anywhere nearer to Nossob. The little ones then moved back through the camp, using the same route out as they had walked in. It was 6.45 am now. Let’s get moving!
Spots packed the stuff again he had meant to take to the car before and went off. Again he returned with everything still in his hands. Can’t do it
, he said, they are lying at the fence to Oliver’s unit and the large male cub was looking at me straight.
I sneaked out to see that myself, using the car as a shield and eyed around it. Indeed, they were there and very much alert. Back to the unit, closing the gate and more waiting. At least we had the adults to watch in the distance… About half an hour later Oliver appeared at out gate and that’s when we knew that the little ones had moved off. We quickly finished loading the car, including some GK laundry to be taken to Nossob and got on our way one and a half an hour after gate opening. We would never make it to Nossob on time.
A bit more than an hour later we had made it almost to Polentswa when we saw two cars parking. Spots and I cried out in unison: Oh no, no more cats, please. We got to get to Nossob.
And there they were – the Polentswa pride with the two females and one of the big daddies lying right at the verge of the road:
Needless to say we couldn’t let that pass. Being late or not. The lionesses were intently watching some springboks in the riverbed – who knows what we might miss if we carried on now!
Luckily, they decided to give the hunt a pass and rather got up and moved towards the dunes where their six half-grown cubs were resting in the shade. Never got a decent photo of them – too much grass, too little lion… But at least the mums were willing to pose:
Daddy followed suit:
Another photo that had to be taken through the windscreen.
And this one when he walked by our car:
It was not even 9 am yet and we had seen a total of 15 different lions!
With that we left the lions to it and got to Nossob without further disruption. It was almost 10.15 am by now and not only Duke and Sharifa were already waiting, but also Jacliz and her SO and Charlize, the ranger who was meant to accompany us to the waterhole. Sorry again for being so late!
After the event was done and dusted we left Nossob around 11 am and still had some 100 something kilometres to go to get to Uri. On the northern dune road a car stopped us telling us that there were 5 lions resting underneath a tree right next to the road just short of Valpaan. Lions? Again? Yawn!
The lions hadn’t moved a bit and we found them easily:
It was nearing 2 pm by now, it was hot, we were bothered and the lions wouldn’t bat an eyelid anyway till later in the day, so we moved on rather quickly. With 20 different lions in one day we were really spoilt and not too crazy about lions anymore. Our mind was firmly set on finding cheetahs on the Aoub side during the rest of our stay.
But the next day we did have to ‘endure’ more lions – two females still smeared with blood from their previous meal passed out underneath a tree just a bit further from the southern entrance / exit of the Dalkeith loop. This is the most I was able to get from the two ladies:
On our evening drive we found the lionesses up and walking albeit a bit grumpy looking:
But maybe that’s not too surprising when no less than 4 cars are trailing you and even more approaching from all directions. We didn’t bother to turn around to follow them as well. We wanted cheetah!
In hindsight it might have been a bit of a dumb thing to do as I probably missed the opportunity to get at least one up front photo of a typical Kalahari male. The next day we were told that he had come to join the ladies at the waterhole and that he had tried to mate one, but got a good slap in the face by the lioness whose tummy was filled to the brims with some antelope meat. We saw the male the next morning, albeit far off in the dunes. Apparently he had been drinking at Dalkeith waterhole, having chased off a cheetah with her cub in the process. The guy who told us went on about what an exceptionally beautiful species he was with his black mane almost reaching the ground... I couldn’t care less – we had just missed our cheetah.