Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Lion Kings.....by Marilyn

They say "a picture is worth a thousand words", but it just can't truly convey the intensity of being there. A picture can't describe the deafening roar of lions prowling a mere fifteen feet away, or the quiet padding of a cheetah's feet in the dry grass. A picture can't describe the sickening tearing and crunching sounds made by hungry hyenas devouring the carcass of a downed cape buffalo. It can't describe the alarmed trumpeting of a protective mother elephant warning us to keep more distance from her baby.

A picture can't describe the stench of being downwind of a fully grown cape buffalo, five days dead, rotting in the bush, or the unforgettable odor of a male lion marking it's territory. A picture can't describe the spicy fragrance of fields upon fields of wild sage growing as far as the eye can see in Botswana or the clean fresh scent of clear water flowing slowly through the hundreds of acres of papyrus making channels through the Delta.

All these sights, sounds, scents and emotions are locked forever in my heart and mind; only my pictures can be shared.

We knew these lions were on the hunt. We could hear them a short distance away as we cautiously snaked our way through the thick brush. The moon was near full, but, it was still very dark and our excitement was high....our eyes eagerly following the beam of the spot light as it scanned for any sign of action left and right of the jeep. We were already pumped up from the afternoon game drive, but, we wanted more!

We were looking for "The Boys", the oldest and largest pair of lions in the preserve. They are brothers both wearing the scars of battling with each other on a regular basis to claim the much sought after title of King. They have been inseparable since birth whether hunting or relaxing. They are massive, handsome, and strong - forces to be feared and respected. They were elusive as well on this particular night.

We returned the next afternoon and tracked them to a small tree where they were still resting from the previous nights activities. We knew we would be rewarded for our patience and watched and waited over an hour. It was only a matter of time as the sun set and the air cooled before the first of the two stretched, yawned and walked directly in-front of the jeep to settle down in the road about fifteen feet to our left. Lions are very social and sleep close together, often draping a paw over the face or back of another. When the second lion awoke alone, not knowing where his brother was, he started a series of locating grunts that increasing got louder and louder and were answered with the same intensity. The grunts turned into a roaring duet between the two while we sat in the middle . It was amazing. It made the hair on my neck stiffen and I could almost feel the vibration in the air. It was chilling, awe inspiring and unforgettable.

We were fortunate enough to have a repeat performance two more times then learned from the ranger that he felt the days were numbered for the pair. They are twelve years old and will soon not be able to defend themselves against the younger males that are getting stronger and bolder. It is only a matter time before they will be challenged, beaten and killed, probably by one of their own sons, and the cycle will continue as it has for years.

The four following pictures were snapped as darkness fell, explaining the somewhat eerie look of the pictures...

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