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Published: October 22nd 2018
Barely Visible From the Land Rover
The Lion Hunt
The light started to wane as we meandered through the Acacia Thorn bushed trail at about 5 kilometers an hour, hoping to spot one last time, before the dimming light made it impossible, one of the big five from our perches that we were seated in the back of the canopied Land Rover. Our driver Michael, and our spotter Eric, two Masai warriors had their eyes glued to the task at hand. In the conservancy, the roads and trails twisted and turned, so that quite often, we would encounter game crossing the road in front of us, always trying to get out of our way.
One time, our driver and spotter, but not on this particular drive, each had their eyes glued each one looking to the left or the right, with actually no eyes looking towards the front of the vehicle as we were game driving. All of a sudden I shouted out at them to “STOP” for instantly an elephant appeared crossing on the road in front of us no more than twenty feet away. It pivoted towards us and stopped, to face us, curious as to what was getting closer to it with
Cradling The Cub
The Cub was Between the paws in the waning light
making all the racket. The driver slammed on the brakes and both heads turned to my shout in unison, and I pointed my finger to the front. They both followed my pointed finger and quickly assessed the situation, and as I grimaced in anticipation of the standoff, elephants are definitely bigger than us, we slowly backed up for she was formidable. We left the Elephant flapping its ears and swaying its head and decided to pursue another direction. Nervous yes, and with a sigh of relief as well, we laughed about it later.
We had now been on the game drive since 4PM, and it was now closer to 6PM, when Michael shouted.” There!”, and quickly pointed into the bushes on our left side of the vehicle.
Everyone’s head turned in unison when he said. “A Lion”.
Peering intently with shadows thickening, I couldn’t see anything yet. Eric’s patient finger pointing led my eyes in-between two bushes. Once I accustomed my eyes, squinting in concentration, focused to the area he pointed to, there, staring intently at me was a Lioness and her cub nestled protectively between her two paws. No movement, still as can be, they were
He was a bruiser
camouflaged, probably tucked in with the others of the pride. We couldn’t see the others, but Michael said they were there. Michael explained that there were twelve in this group, three Lionesses and nine cubs. The two male Lions of the pride had not been seen for days. Once we photographed what we could discern through the bushes Michael said we should go, but come back in about fifteen minutes once dusk was ending and perhaps under the cover of some darkness, the pride might venture out into the open, so we could see the full extent of the family. Sure enough, as if screen played, the Pride emerged as predicted by Michael, when we returned, and we caught up to them creeping slowly ahead, as they were following the road.
Now, with barely visible light, shooting photos was going to be a tough option, but I was up to the task, and so I tried to capture on camera the 2nd
encounter of the Pride with limited success. We had to satisfy ourselves to just drink in the moment and marvel at what nature presented to us.
Suddenly, two buffalos crossed the Prides path in a disturbing
Out for a stroll
Walking on stiff legs after a day of snoozing
fashion, so that the Lionesses and her cubs scattered hither and yon to get out of the way of the running of the Buffalos. We could barely make out the drama unfolding, so Eric lit up the infrared spotlight. Now we saw pairs of red dots dancing up and down, side to side. We could tell by the size of the dancing dots whose were which. Distinguishing a lion cub came easy, since the dots were lower to the ground. The Lionesses eyes were higher up and fleeting as they tried to rush the buffalos and scare them away. One Buffalo eyes were bulldozing towards a Lioness panicking the pride to retreat. There was a still another set of eyes of the other Buffalo off to the side, checking out the scene..
Not wanting to mess with the bigger animals, who were temperamental at best, with I guess, lessons learned for the cubs completed, the Lionesses began moving away from the commotion, back onto the road giving the bruising black buffalos there space.
It was mentioned then, that this pride had not been seen in the area recently, because (livestock) cattle have been herded into the area, and
Early morning Hyena alert
Up to something this one!
what was thought of as easy prey in the Lions opinion, turned out to be frustration since the herders were vigilant in protecting their cattle. Also, Michael expected that this Pride, being on the thin side were hungry, so it was expected that they would soon go after and take down something significant, and probably that night.
THE NEXT MORNING: With a wakeup call at 5:30AM, welcomed by a coffee and cookies with a 5:45 AM start, saw us ready for the 6AM sunrise. We hopped back into the Land Rover groggy with just a little caffeine, cloaked in layers of clothing, so we could peel off the layers one by one as the day progressed. Once we finished with the spectacular Mt. Kenyan sunrise front-setted by some awesome acacia trees, we continued for about two kilometers towards where we last left off the pride of Lions the night before. Hopefully we could catch the Pride with the kill that Michael predicted would happen. Just off to the right of the vehicle we spotted a two-some of Hyenas, but what was strange was that they were rock still, staring off into what seemed a distance. Michael exclaimed that there
The Three Rogues Appear
Formidable yet elegant in the light
must be a kill somewhere nearby and we should follow them. Well, “Let’s hop to it!” I exclaimed with vigor.
Little did we know what was about to unfold in front of us over the next two hours. As the light brightened, we were entering a section of grasslands that was not flat but with slight inclines, following the Hyenas in-between the whistling thorny Acacias. We zigged and zagged through them as we followed the Hyenas on their quest for some scrap food. Not another minute later Eric, our spotter, pointed to the left of us and looking straight into the sun as it was rising above the trees, we were able to make out, not one, but three bodies with their heads to the ground following a scent. Three Lions heads that is! The male Lions seemed to be tracking something. Since it was early morning, we surmised that they were on a hunt, so there was no kill yet, the Hyenas that had been staring toward our encounter earlier were just going along for the scraps should the Lions be successful. Michael commented that it was strange that these Lions were here. They did not belong to
the area, which he said was easy to tell, because they were very mature looking, but also that the Pride of twelve that we came across the night before had only two Male Lions, so these were rogue, trying to build a pride and take over a territory.
Lucky us! Slowly we followed off to the side, this way and that, at a distance. Not wanting to interfere with nature, allowing the potential drama to unfold in a natural state. Michael called in the other Land Rover that was out on safari with us to update our location, and to also put in place another set of eyes. We could not cover the ground we needed to by ourselves, so now with the other vehicle we could observe in real time the drama and be where we needed to be at a moment’s notice. Once the other Land Rover emerged, following the rogue Lion threesome was much easier. The lions were oblivious to us , because we looked just like a massive moving bulk and were not a threat to them or any other species. The Masai were methodical and exacting in making sure that there was no interference
Sensing the scent
A mission in the making
with nature and no footprint left behind.
The Lions, it seemed, took their time, stopping, sitting, then standing, but always moving forward following a trajectory which only they knew. I clicked away with my camera, shooting at different angles, trying to capture the intensity that was unfolding, not knowing again, what was to come. Clicking, clicking, always clicking, the cameras rolled. All of a sudden one of the rogue Lions took off at a clip down an embankment with the other two getting up to speed close behind. Suddenly, the driver, Michael, jolted into action and started up the vehicle and we were to follow. Still under the impression that these three were going for the kill, we thought that we would witness the taking down of their prey, for whatever it was, our eyes remained focused to the chase at hand.
“WOW! This is getting exciting”. I thought.
The two Hyenas were close, lagging behind, but at a safe distance. They know too well, that to incur a Lions wrath might mean certain death. A third Hyena, just then, joined the growing quora and with a leap and a bound they continued to pursue after the
Get-away you Hyena!!
The Hunters are followed by the Scavengers and US!
Lions with us holding back, but visually keeping in touch. As we reached the bottom of the gully we now knew that the three rogue Lions were not after food, but after the Pride of twelve Lions. The three Lionesses and nine cubs suddenly were scattering about in all directions and the situation evolved into mayhem. The Lionesses were now aware that the three rogue male Lions were out to kill the cubs and take over the Pride.
For what seemed like an eternity, we witnessed galloping Lions, Lionesses, and cubs go 360 degrees around and about. The Lionesses turned on a dime to face the three rogues. A Lioness fierce with fury roared into attack mode and reared up on two legs, trying to grab the male and bite into the neck. The Lion was quick to the draw and batted her away just in time, then turned and ran off in another direction.
While this was happening, the Hyena’s seeing an opportunity, entered the picture and discovered that the Pride had been feasting on a freshly killed Eland, which was lying at the bottom of the gully. You could see the remains of the carcass laid
bare to the bright red ribs. Now that the Pride scattered, the Hyenas were met by another quora of eight Hyenas, it seemed that every one of the Hyenas wanted a piece of the carcass.
All hell broke loose then, as we saw the Hyenas dragging entrails of intestines, and haunches away, out of the gully, to munch in safety while eying warily around. One Hyena would stand watch while the others feverishly gorged and pulled and gnawed off sections of bones and sinew. You could hear the cracking, and crunching of the bones as the Hyenas jaws clamped down like a vise so the teeth could imbed into the bone like a scissoring action, disintegrating the bones into smaller pieces.
Michael now knew the full impact of the situation and explained that because the two Lion mates had left the pride to who knew where, the door was now open for these three rogue Lions to kill the cubs and mate with the Lionesses and have cubs of their own.
The kill was now a side bar for us in all the commotion as we looked around. We left the Hyenas and the killed Eland to
Lioness being chased......
see if the cubs got out okay. As we drove around, off in the distance, we saw a Lioness chasing one of the Lions, while the Lion was chasing a cub. Just then the cub took off in another direction and the Lion decided not to follow it but instead headed off, up an embankment and away. We thought then that the raid was over, but with a slight pause in the action we stopped and surveyed with a bird’s eye view to the right of us, Hyenas grouped together feasting, to the front of us, the three rogue Lions up the hill circling back towards the kill, and the Lionesses running in every direction looking for their cubs to protect.
We never saw the cubs again that day, but also did not see any get killed by the Lions, so we were thankful for that.
One of the Male Lions that had circled back had reached the previous kill, scattering the Hyenas. As it reached the carcass, it started dragging what was remaining out of the gully and up a steep hill into a thicket of brush so he could eat undisturbed and protected. The other two
Ah Oh " I spot a cub!"
This one veered off to kill a Cub
Lions joined in, but there was some commotion. Growling at each other and breaking up the carcass they each had a share.
In the meantime, two of the Lionesses headed back to the kill hunched, peering, waiting at the top of the gully, looking down. The Lions who were eating finally sensed this and suddenly abandoned the kill and headed back towards where the Lionesses who were hunched. The Hyena’s rushed back to the kill at a clip and again started pulling and gnawing away. Once the chase was on, it was frenzy all over again. No cubs were in sight and the object we guessed was for the Lionesses to keep the Lions occupied, so their minds were off the cubs.
The adults were playing a serious game of life, which thankfully ended in a stalemate. Disinterested, one Lion turned away and headed back to the kill in the bushes, while the other two took off in another direction. We never saw these two rogues again that day, but we knew they were around because as Michael the Masai explained, we should look for signs from other animals to know what could be happening around you. So
This one too
A travelling Butcher
Michael put the Land Rover in drive and we descended down and then up through the gully to the other bank. Once we hit the opposite top side, we looked for the carcass on the mini mesa which was not visible, but we spotted the male Lion who was peeking through an opening of bushes at us just twenty feet away. The male Lion, seeing that we were no threat proceeded to eat and pull apart what was left of the rest of the Eland. The Hyenas were not that far off, as they had followed the Lion while he was hauling up the carcass earlier. The Lion paused eating after five minutes and then turned and rose up off to the right and out of sight of us.
The Hyenas came back in a flurry and began crunching the bones and again we heard the cracking sounds as they were chewing. There was no meat left so they were scavenging leftovers. One Hyena was keeping a watch while five were busily at their task. The one watching me eerily peered, still as a statue, for at least a couple of minutes, when suddenly the Lion leapt
Up the Gully
Tiring work out
with a roar at the Hyenas eating the carcass and caught a grip of a Hyena oblivious to all around it but the task at hand. The Hyena yelped up a storm and didn’t quite escape the jaws of death, and was injured. We saw the Hyena limping away, so the Lion must have taken a healthy bite. We saw him later hovering in the perimeter, limping still wanting to scavenge. It was then we decided that since the carcass of the Eland was pretty much depleted we should continue along our way.
Off we went back down and then up the other side again, but this time heading back towards the Rhino camp. Forthwith, we spied a Lioness approaching us from the left so we stopped and watched her passing us by no further than five feet from us. She was letting out a soft moaning deep sound swaying her head back and forth calling out to her lost cubs. We then saw another Lioness take off after her cubs towards our camp, crossing over a small river following her cubs scent.
This was the beginning of our day which still was unfolding and it wasn’t ten
Reversal of tasks.
Going after the Lion who is going after the Cub.
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