On our first afternoon game drive from DumaTau Camp in the Linyanti, Botswana, we saw wild dogs and a leopard. We were beyond chuffed. We teased our guide that he’d never equal or better that on our next drive. But nature had other ideas, showing us the raw power of lions.
Just outside camp in the early morning light our guide Evans Keowetse picked up leopard tracks on an elephant path and drove off-road to see if he could find the elusive cat. It became a bit of a habit: that morning he found five different sets of leopard tracks. Each time they meant a bush-whacking detour, especially if he heard birds giving an alarm call in the bushes. He was nothing if not determined.
But we found no leopards.
What we did find was a green wood-hoopoe probing a dead tree trunk for borer worms to eat and a trio of strutting ground hornbills. ‘See how their legs are covered in scales like an eagle’s,’ said Evans. ‘Snake fangs can’t penetrate those scales so these birds are good snake killers.’
An explosion of lions
We crossed a rustic log-bridge over the water and found six lions lying down next to a termite mound. Some young males were just starting to grow their manes. Two seemed half alert, lying like sphinxes, their heads erect but eyelids drooping.
Eventually a lioness pulled off a leg and moved to a tuft of grass about six metres away to enjoy it in peace. Two others snatched a bit and walked off too. The smallest cub came towards us tripping over the stomach as it spilt its grassy contents on to the ground.
The whole impala was gone in 10-15 minutes, from a living breathing animal to nothing but bones for the vultures to pick over.
Electrifying though it was to see the raw power of lions in action, it’s always distressing to witness how fast the transition from life to death is for prey animals. To relieve some of our held-in tension we stopped at a waterhole for coffee and a recap of the events that had moved so quickly we’d each noticed only part of the initial drama as it unfolded.
But first Evans drove carefully around the area to check there were no dangerous predators in the bushes. We weren’t going to make the same mistake as that impala.
You’ll find the untamed Linyanti area in northern Botswana, with Moremi Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta to the south and Chobe National Park to the east. At 1 250 square kilometres, it’s a place of vast wetlands, floodplains and woodlands with wildlife like lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, buffaloes, and lots of elephants. If you’re a birder, you’ll love seeing some of about 400 bird species, including African skimmer, African fish-eagle, saddle-billed stork, kingfishers and bee-eaters.
The main source of water for wildlife during the dry season is the Linyanti River, while the mysterious Savuti Channel has a history of disappearing and reappearing. It has flowed erratically for more than a century, returning after a 30-year dry spell in 2008. Now it’s has dried up once more. The word Savute means ‘unpredictable’ and its rabbit-in-a-hat trick has to do with tectonic movement of rock plates below the surface.
The Linyanti is home to a number of luxury camps that offer game drives, guided walks and boat safaris, as well as a chance to interact with local communities and learn about their traditional way of life. When we enjoyed this lion experience, we were staying at Wilderness’ Duma Tau Camp. Appropriately, Duma Tau means ‘roar of the lion’. We have also stayed at Great Plains Conservation’s Selinda Camp not far away. I can recommend both for outstanding wildlife experiences with fabulously knowledgeable guides.
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