Return of the King

Over the past few months, we have been incredibly fortunate to have had some amazing sightings of the western pride of lions within our traversing area close to Motswari. The sightings have generally only been of the females and younger sub-adults, with the two mature males of the pride never venturing into our area long enough for us to find them.

This last week, however, we eventually found the two majestic male lions sleeping near the river. Though they were still separate from the rest, it was a real treat for me personally, as it had been many months since I’d seen a nice, big-maned male in the area – let alone two together! That being said, I was saddened to see that the one male was looking in much worse shape than the last time I had seen him, and it appeared that he had recently been blinded in one eye during an unknown fight.  A possibility could be that his injuries were inflicted by the three younger males of the pride the last time they all joined together. Despite this natural occurrence of nature, which is still sometimes hard to see, it was an absolutely magical and visceral experience to be in the African bush spending time with these two commanding, dominant male lions with the glowing sun setting on the horizon. We sat with these regal animals for a good 20 minutes as they slowly started to stir, sauntering over to a pool of water in the riverbed to have a drink before the evening began. We left them, and headed back to the lodge for dinner as they continued walking west towards where we knew the rest of the pride was.

The next day, I headed south in hope of finding some rhinos that had been alluding my guests and I over the last couple of days on our game drives. During our search, I got a report that the whole pride of lions from the previous day had joined up together and were sleeping just west of our traversing boundary. Focusing on the rhino was our mission for that day, but I remained hopeful that the lions would come back into our area the next day and we would get a chance to see them altogether.

As the sun rose the next morning, one of the other guides found tracks which he suspected belonged to the two males heading back into our area. Unfortunately, however, the tracks crossed back north and out of our domain. Disappointed that I had missed the chance to see the males amidst the pride, we continued with our drive, finding a few bull elephants heading towards Arygle dam, close to Motswari. While we were enjoying the elephants drinking at the water’s edge, I heard on the radio that the western pride had been found not too far away, with one of the males in attendance! Turns out the tracks that had been called in earlier were of only one of the males with one female, and the other male had joined up with the rest of the pride. Leaving our group of elephants, we proceeded to head towards where they had spotted the lions.

It was already getting pretty hot, and I was a bit worried that we would arrive to a pride of lazing, sleeping lions. To my surprise – and my guests’ astonishment – as we turned the corner we were greeted by the awe-inspiring sight of nine lions walking towards us on the road, with the majestic male in tow! We waited for them to pass, and followed behind them for quite some time, as they eventually headed towards a thicket which provided ample shade under which to settle down and rest for the day. As chance would have it, it was the last drive of my guests’ stay – and we couldn’t have asked for a better way to end their memorable safari experience at Motswari!

Hopefully it won’t be the last time we get to see this remarkable pride all together, and it will be interesting to follow their dynamics as they mature and head into the abundance of summer in the next few months.