Cats on our Doorstep

This morning, we took a boat across the river to walk in a part of the park devoid of tracks and vehicles. Despite the lack of human activity, we only saw herds of puku and one snoozing hippo, who got a very wide berth. Again, we walked through tall grass, palms and anthills – all unnerving with the reputation for lions in this area.

Returning to camp for brunch, we spotted four elephants headed into the water downstream from us. Chris and the staff retreat for siesta, so they left us alone to watch. One elephant wanted to cross, and worked at enticing the other three into the water. After much cavorting, splashing and bubbling in the shallows, the elephants organized themselves in a line and crossed the river.

We retreated to the deeper shade of our hut, showered and washed clothes. In Steve’s case, he just stepped into the shower clothes and all. The day was hot enough that everything would be dry before tea time. We flopped on the bed for a nap, when Chris suddenly arrived, quite excited, saying that the staff had spotted lions near the camp. We scrambled for shoes and cameras, quickly trotting out to Chris’s land rover. Both Steven and Gift were there, clearly dressed for comfort, not for serving guests, very excited.

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Just up the riverbank from the camp, near the campground (where we originally planned to stay), we spotted one, two and then three lionesses, all with fresh blood on their faces. A very alert herd of puku gave away their position. In the heat of the day, it was clear that the lions were trying to stay in the limited shade. The largest of the lionesses moved closer to the river, flopping down under a tree in full view of the land rover. We were able to eventually move the land rover into a position to see that one of the puku had become lion lunch.

We returned to camp: it was really hot in the sun. As we walked back into camp from the land rover, it was quite apparent that the hunting lions had actually walked through the camp: there were lion prints all over the paths between the huts and the common area! It was probably only a matter of minutes that Steve and I had missed the lions when we walked back to our hut, after watching the elephants crossing the river. Yikes!!

After tea, we loaded back up in Chris’s land rover to visit the lions. The offal was all that was left in the place where we had first spotted the kill. Each lioness had found a new spot: two were still working on pieces of the kill, while one lounged on her back, belly full, clearly undisturbed by our approach. We watched until it was almost too dark to see.

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