Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Life in Botswana: Another Lion Tale...

... And We Ain't "Lyin"

Here's a story my mother wrote just for me, with the added handwritten note at the top: Finally, your very own (is it worth it?)

Six of us went north over Easter weekend to see birds and animals. On Friday morning we drove to Nata, and after lunch went out to the Sua Pan. To get there we drove 8 km south of the Nata Lodge turnoff, to a Nata Lodge sign, went through the gate there and proceeded about 3 km, through and around some small pans, before reaching Sua Pan. It had water, and we were fortunate to see several groups of lesser flamingos, totaling about 150, and over 500 white pelicans. The sunset was fantastic!

The next morning we traveled to Kudiakam Pan to see the Baines baobabs. No water, but even so the trees were splendid. Everyone took prize-winning photos. Then on to Nxai Pan National Park, seeing three giraffe en route. After setting up camp we drove to Kgama Kgama Pan and back to Nxai Pan ("the Pan"). We saw a group of six gemsbok and a group of about 300 springbok. Back at camp, a tawny eagle lazed overhead. And the Southern Cross was bright and clear until the full moon rose.

The next day we hit the Pan about 6 o'clock. Our first experience driving on the road with tall grass alongside, at 30 kph, we were astounded to see a large gemsbok dash out of the grass not ten feet from the front of our truck and dash into the grass on the other side! He couldn't see us and we couldn't see him. We thought about what might have happened and drove slower. Soon after we saw about 30 more gemsbok, in small groups.

We then found ourselves in the middle of about 1,000 springbok, on both sides and in front. After many photos, seeing how peaceful the scene was, two women from our group left our trucks and began walking on the road in front, toward the springbok. They were about 200 yards ahead, when they bolted toward the trucks at a speed of 9 seconds for 100 meters, motioning for the trucks to come to them! They made it, and said that they had seen two lion, male and female, walking about 200 yards away, between two groups of springbok. The reason for the dash was that the lions had spotted them, and stopped!

After the two sprinters had recovered, we turned around to go ahead of the lions, and then curved around so that they would pass nearby. After we rounded a clump of trees we saw the lioness, first standing, then lying down. No sign of the male. We drove to about 75 feet from the lioness, parked at an angle with the lioness to our left, and turned off engines. We adjusted our cameras and were busily taking photos when suddenly the male lion exploded out of a clump of grass to our right and in two bounds, in one-tenth of a second, covered 60 feet and rose up, flailing the air with his paws and roaring loudly. He stopped just short of our truck and dropped into a crouch. We were all so busy rolling up windows that we couldn't take a picture! After checking for local heart failure we started engines and slowly backed away. The lion watched us until he was sure we were leaving.

Moral: Don't ever leave the vehicle in the presence of wild game!!

On the way back to camp for breakfast, we saw a number of zebra, two black-backed jackal, and an enormous secretary bird. After breakfast we drove all around the Pan and saw close to 2,000 zebra grazing and strolling, with some in file formation going somewhere. They were everywhere inside the road which encircled the Pan. We saw also two kudu, another jackal, two more secretary birds, two kori bustards, and a flock of circling vultures. Many other birds, too, and small stuff – mongoose, spring hares, and one turtle.

And then back to Nata and home with our experiences and, we hope, some good photos.