Friday, 25 December 2009

KTP - The Hidden Gem - Day 7

Red dunes of the Kgalagadi
Day 7 - Nossob
Christmas morning started the same as the others – early to rise and catch the morning game drive – we headed south this time to see if we could catch the lions and were rewarded with a young male lion drinking at Marie se Gat – along with about 6 jackals.  We also spotted a mating lion pair and another big black mane lion out on the pan. 

Lion heading towards the waterhole
The rest of the day was spent winding around the area between the South and North side, where we saw the laziest lions ever – 2 sleeping young males that would just not get off the road despite cars driving up and down.  We actually spent an unusual amount of time (for us) at camp, even a bit of time at the bird hide in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, besides 2 paranoid springbok attempting to drink, nothing else was moving.
Black-backed jackals at the waterhole

Evening came and we headed south again.  Someone had put a caracal sighting on the board that day, near Marie se Gat – so we decided to chase it up – yes, even though we knew it was a complete waste of time trying to chase those secretive creatures.  We did give it up fairly quickly and so headed back to the waterhole at Marie se Gat to chill out instead of driving around hoping to see something. 

Black-maned Kalahari lion
As we were approaching the waterhole we saw the big black mane lion (not the mating one) heading towards the waterhole and were lucky enough to be able to position the car to get some nice head-on shots of him walking.  He didn’t drink, but instead walked straight to the small bush that the young male of the morning was still sleeping under.  He sniffed around before walking about 3 meters from our car, passing in front of it and lying down in front of another.  And then things escalated…

The mating pair finally got up and started walking towards the waterhole.  They looked more aggressive than we usually see lions.  When they got to the waterhole, the lioness lay down, but the male kept going – straight to the bush where the youngster was lying in – growling all the time.
The next thing we knew there was a full on fight between the big male and the youngster! Biting, clawing, snarling – it was all there – you could feel the pent-up aggression in the older male as he fought with the youngster, who was on his back trying to fight back.  Suddenly the female was also in there attacking the youngster! 

Lion attack
We were so intent on watching the action that it was only when I felt a bump against the car that I looked around.  The other male, previously lying down was suddenly right next to our car (having brushed against it) also growling, which seemed to diffuse the situation, getting the aggressor to back off.  And then the roaring started with the male lion standing right next to us roaring at full throttle and the mating pair joining in.  He was literally so close; we could have put our hand out and plucked a hair from his body!  Not that that was even an option…  All we could do was hold our breath and hope he didn’t turn around…

Luckily he didn’t, and once the roaring was done, he walked around our car and went to lay down a few metres away from us.  Meanwhile the mating pair walked to the waterhole and lay down watching the young male, who was lying motionless where they had fought.  He didn’t move much, so we weren’t sure if he would be okay – it seemed a bit more aggressive than the normal slapping that apparently is involved in a fight.  Still, none of the other lions were paying much attention to him and within a few moments peace was restored and it was as if nothing had happened, all of them flopping down, out for the count.
Tired after the fight
We left them like that, exhilarated if not a bit shaken by the close encounter.  The rest of the evening paled in significance to that episode, though we did have another great experience at the hide in the night.  Besides the jackals milling around, busy as ever, three Barn owls came flying around, giving us some nice video of them.  A few minutes after everyone else had left the hide, a brown hyena arrived to drink.  He had just finished and left when a big male lion (yes – another one!) arrived for water.  A pretty special experience in the hide again to round off our evening!

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