In Pursuit of the Pride

Published on: 20/03/2024

Gham Dao - Jan 22 -168

Photo title: Kalahari Lion

|

Photo Credits: Daniel Crous

In the pre-dawn darkness, in the lull between sleep and wakefulness, I lie in my tent. Somewhere in the distance a sound breaks the silence, stirring in me an ancient disquiet, a primordial feeling. Sounding much closer than in reality. It echos through the Kalahari scrub, creeps over the veranda of my tent and rouses me firmly from my slumber. Eyes open and primed. The alarm on my phone begins to chirp alerting me to the morning drive.

I climb on board the Landcruiser and await the effects of a hastily downed coffee to take effect. My guide, Freeman, is already analysing and interpreting the myriad clues scattered through the seemingly endless landscape. We set off in search of our early morning serenader.

An overnight storm has deposited much needed rain over the region and made following the spoor easier than normal. Pristine tracks and very fresh, we are on the trail. One large main pad with three distinct rear lobes, common in all cats. At several points the spoor disappears into the bush but returns to the path of least resistance, the safari vehicle track. As a photographer, these are the very moments we live for. There are no guarantees of course. Countless times the search is fruitless but no less exhilarating. You re-check your camera battery, memory cards, settings. In the early light, termite mounds take on cat-like shapes, tree stumps grow ears. Your eyes willing your object into sight.

We bump round a bend. The tracks once again have strayed from the road but this time they stop after a few metres. For resting in the shadows is the unmistakable King of the Kalahari. A magnificent black maned lion. Typical for the Kalahari. A glorious inky mane extends underneath his chest and down the front legs. After a short time he rises from his slumber, stretches and sharpens his claws on the bark of a nearby Terminalia. Lion’s claws must surely be some of the most fearsome weaponry in nature. Not only are they razor sharp and as strong as carbon fibre, but there are 18 of them and they are attached to over 200kg of muscle and speed.

Gham Dao - Jan 22 -157

Photo title: Kalahari Lion

|

Photo Credits: Daniel Crous

The audible scraping of bark is broken by a low huffing and puffing and five sub-adult cubs come bowling out from the bushes accompanied by two visibly well-fed lionesses. The next three hours are spent in the company of this majestic pride as the cubs practice their stalking skills on a sometimes less than patient patriarch. After some time the pride moves a short way off where we discover the source of their full stomachs. The zebra carcass still contains enough meat to warrant guarding. The lions slump down in the meagre shade on offer, seeking respite as the morning ebbs away.

For big herbivores, and for the lions, it is siesta time. Their breathing slows, and the cool of the morning gradually gives way to unrelenting heat. Surprisingly, more zebra, their favourite prey, approach and linger not far off. The lion's aggression, however, is temporarily suspended. A tenuous truce which will end as the afternoon draws to a close and dusk takes over. Nature's laws giving each animal time to accumulate the energy necessary for survival.

Meanwhile, great gliders circle in. Vultures gathering in a close-knit group. Their patience is equalled by that of the lions. Each observes the other. If the lions are full and game is plentiful in the area, they may well abandon the remains. If not, the vultures will have to wait for hours, maybe days, for their share of the kill. A brutal competition with the other scavengers no doubt lurking in the surrounding bush.

Daniel Crous

Daniel Crous

Daniel Crous has been lucky enough to call Botswana home for his entire life. His folks ran safari camps in the 80's and his early childhood was spent in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Life outdoors has always been his calling, safaris in Botswana are one of the purest forms of such a life. His Dad handed him his old film camera when he was about 12, documenting the wilderness around him has grown from passion to profession. He is equally passionate about the conservation of the land we live in and all of its creatures, including its people. He now takes extreme pleasure in leading others to some of the incredible experiences available here.

Gham Dao - Jan 22 -168

In Pursuit of the Pride

6C3A9186

The Kalahari Basin

EB Stills-125

A time with the first people: The Old Ways.

EB Stills-113

Into the night – nocturnal life in the Kalahari

Lion with Porcupine 1

A Lone Porcupine fights off an entire pride of Lions!

Gham Dao - Jan 22 -203

The Kalahari is in a constant state of flow

1280px-Suricatos  Suricata suricatta  parque nacional Makgadikgadi Pans  Botsuana  2018-07-30  DD 32

Seven Animals to see in the Kalahari Desert

Gham Dao - Jan 22 -6

Of creatures great and small

sunset-g91a4fcc3c 1280

Ten Interesting Facts About the Kalahari Desert