Friday, 9 August 2013

Selous GR - Day 2


We were the first in the park the next morning, and with no paperwork to be done other than it being checked, we were straight in for our first full game drive of our trip.  Our plan was to head on the main road straight to Lake Manze to catch the lions with their buffalo kill.  

Yellow-billed stork
We were somewhat delayed though when we came across 2 male lions lying in the middle of the road.  They refused to get up, even when we got closer, so eventually we had to detour off the road to get past!

Grooming lioness - wondering where the food went...
Now that we knew where the kill was, we didn't take much time to reach the scene.  Surprise, surprise - no kill!  And when we say nothing - there was absolutely nothing of the carcass there - even the vultures seemed confused. 
Savannah baboon

There wasn't a bone, or a piece of skin left - while we know that a pride of 5 can put a big dent into a carcass, we didn't think that there wouldn't be a sign of it, where a fully grown buffalo had been the night before, now the same patch looked like there had never been anything there - there was just an empty patch of dirt.  There definitely seemed some foul play afoot, but we never found out what it was, even if we did spend the next few evenings debating it...

Crocodile basking in the sun
Not far from the kill site (well, now the non-kill site) we found the pride of lions under some trees, looking mostly awake - and dare I say it, rather hungry ;)  We spent quite a bit of time with them but after about an hour decided to go check out what else was happening in the area.  

African harrier-hawk
The rest of the morning was largely uneventful, although we did have a very nice sighting and photo opportunity of an African Harrier Hawk - a very distinctive bird of prey with a yellow or orange face patch.  We also spotted a small owl, always a rarity in the middle of the day.

Pearl-spotted owlet
After hugging the river for most of the morning, we took a different road which took us slightly away from the breathtaking view, and ended up on a horrible bumpy dried out black cotton soil track - it's a real pain to drive on as it takes its toll on the car and you need to go extremely slowly.  But it did pay off as we spotted some safari vehicles in the distance.  Getting closer, we could see that it was lions, but couldn't figure out what was happening.  

Savannah baboon
Finally getting near enough, we found 2 male lions that seemed to be fighting - well not quite fighting in the normal sense of the word - they seemed to be in a standoff - both were on the ground next to each other pushing against each other - like they each had something and refused to let it go.  Considering that it was now pushing midday and extremely hot, it must have been something extremely special to have this kind of standoff...

Lions fighting... over what?
While this was going on, we spotted another few males - one resting in the shade, one with a warthog head, and one with a female lioness...  We soon worked out the male and female were a mating pair, but decided to stick to the 2 males to see what all the fighting was about...

White-backed vultures fighting for the scraps
After 15 minutes (that we were there), one of the males finally got the better of his brother and managed to grab the prize... and what was all the fighting about?  The warthog mane!! A scrap of skin that had virtually no meat on it!  What?!   

Considering that their other brother was lying eating the warthog head with the rest of the carcass next to him, and the vultures gorging themselves, it seemed like a bit of an anti-climax to be fighting in the heat of the day for a scrap of mane... Brawn over brains it seemed ;)

Mating lions
For the next couple of hours we rotated between the mating lions, the one eating the warthog, and the vultures have a free meal.  Even in the heat of the day, the lions seemed quite active, something we'd come to expect in East Africa.  The mating lions seemed particularly active (maybe right at the beginning of the 3 day ritual) and they were mating a lot quicker than the expected every 20 minutes.

More mating...
Finally though, the males all drifted into the shade of some bushes, so we left the mating couple and decided to head back to the river and enjoy lunch while watching a pod of hippos, and a flock of White-faced whistling ducks.

Grazing hippo
The afternoon was spent trying to photograph antelope drinking, especially the always photogenic zebras and amusing giraffes.  This proved to be a lot easier said than done, as they seemed to be quite skittish.  Maybe because of the fewer cars, or maybe as a result of the hunting concessions on the other side of the river, but it was hard to get close up shots of the antelopes in general.  

White-faced whistling ducks
Eventually we spent over an hour slowly creeping up in the car and then stopping if the animals showed signs of running.  It took quite a while, but in the end we were rewarded with a line of zebra all drinking from the river.

Zebras in a line drinking
We did managed to spot a lone lioness as well, but she was so hidden in the dense bush, that it wasn't worth photographing.  We wondered if she had cubs since she was alone, but there didn't seem to be any movement near her, so we left soon after to make sure we got out of the gate just in time for closing.

Sunset in Selous

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