As a guide and photographer I get to meet some really amazing people and get afforded the opportunity to photograph nature at its best. It is a truly inspiring job and when I had the opportunity to drive a true photographic legend, Joe McNally around on his first safari ever, I was as excited as a child on Christmas Day. This truly humble man was as enthused as I at the opportunity to get out and see what wonders awaited us.
Leaving the luxurious Earth Lodge, I wanted to get us off to a good start and find the Southern Pride who had been hunting a herd of approximately 500 buffalo in front of the lodge that morning. My tracker, Jack, and I discussed that it would be easier to track the buffalo and since the lions had been following them, would probably be nearby. It wasn’t long before we found the buffalo and as we had guessed, the lions were about 300 metres behind them, just watching and waiting.
The lions were relaxed but not asleep and eventually they all started to follow the herd again. I could not have asked for better as the light was just starting to come into its own and the lions were moving through unobstructed views allowing us to capture the beauty of these glorious creatures. As we push through a thick section to anticipate a hunt, we saw two bulls that had fallen behind the herd and the sub adult males were now in full stalk but the bulls saw them and bolted off, snorting in alarm to their close shave with death.
The lions followed the herd but looked rather relaxed and not so intent on the hunt, just wanting to stay close enough to ensure that they could launch an attack when it got dark. One of the females though was hungry and she was not going to wait for the rest of the pride to get into the mood. She stalked along the edge of a koppie, using all the cover she could get. She had noticed that a couple of the females and calves had become a little isolated and she was ready to exploit this lapse in concentration.
She stalked closer, using every bit of foliage for cover. Her muscles tensed in anticipation as she tried to decide when to launch her deadly attack. Her shoulder blades cut above the line of her back as she kept as low as possible, her head was still, eyes focused and then suddenly she was off like a bullet from a gun. The unsuspecting herd growled and stampeded in the opposite direction leaving a calf out in the open as if it were an offering but the herd suddenly realised that it was only one lioness and turned to face their attacker. The lioness was mere inches away from the calf when the herd came back at her causing her to abandon her mission and retreat to safety.
The sea of buffalo pulled together and rushed forward like a tide. The grunted and snorted with displeasure as they ushered their attacker backing the rocks from whence she had come. The adrenalin coursed through all of us on the vehicle as we tried to capture the emotion that was still tangible in the air around us. It was a truly magical experience and a more than special way to start a safari…
BY: RICHARD DE GOUVEIA (LITTLE BUSH CAMP RANGER)