I was up again very early. The thought off feasting lions and possibly other predators got me going. Initially, I was on my way to Sigareti, but wanted to stop by the elephant carcass first. The lions will most likely still be around, maybe other predators or scavengers would dare to steal a piece of meat from the king?
It was another amazing sunrise as I made my way through soft sand tracks.
There wasn’t much going on at ‘Doringstraat’ waterhole, apart from the sun slowly rising above. Nice.
I drove on to the site, where we dropped the elephant carcass off yesterday. I didn’t expect what I actually saw though. The whole lion pride had arrived overnight. The two male lions were joined by two strong females and five older cubs. Wow, what a sight. They ran off at my arrival, retreating to nearby bushes. Uncertain on what to do, they waited on my actions. I could see the hunger in their eyes. The lion king was in the thick bush behind, almost camouflaged. He had been eating for most of the night and wasn’t going anywhere. Now it was the young ones turn. I turned the engine for the lions to return to their oversized meal.
Please mom? I am hungry!, Khaudum National Park, Namibia
One of the young males asked mom for permission to go.
Anxiously, one by one they returned.
Their hunger was more important then lion pride.
They still weren’t sure about me and Zimba.
They looked a bit scared, as mom and dad carefully watched on from the bushes behind.
One off the lioness joined their offspring a little while later.
The lion king marked his territory dominantly with a big roar. The other one replied from a hill underneath a shady tree, about 500 meters south from me. Wow, that really sounds amazing. From there they can keep a good eye out on surroundings and lay their fat bellies in the shade.
Lioness feast, Khaudum National Park, Namibia
The young ones and females wasted no time to make the most out of the still cooling early morning hours.
Even with full and fat bellies, they just couldn’t resist a free meal. Unfortunately for them, the elephant carcass hadn’t been fully opened yet.
They couldn’t get through the thick elephant skin and had only one option to feed on.
One of the lionesses rested in the shade keeping a good eye on me. Quiet intimidating. But she was intimidated too. It was time to move on and I wished them well. I turned the ignition key…and nothing. No dashboard lights or any sign off life from Zimba. I switched the key off, waited a few minutes and tried nervously again. Same result. Needless to describe my thoughts that moment. Catzo, are you kidding me? Fuuuudge!!! Now? And right here? In between 9 feasting lions I can’t move on? This couldn’t be any worse location and time. With all the places I been to with Zimba, it was right here he ran out off steam. Or electricity. He started without issues, as usual, this morning and there were no signs earlier for any male functions.
I sat there and stared at the lions for a good while, trying to gather my thoughts. They still kept a good eye on me. It was obvious that the lions paid me as much respect as I gave them. I was clearly outnumbered regardless. They had an extra large portion of food in front of them, I wasn’t seen as prey, not yet. I had to think about my position and think my options through first.
The facts are clear. I am surrounded by 2 strong male lion kings, two healthy females and five young ones, probably last years litter. They are eating a rotting elephant carcass which could possibly attract other lions or hyenas. I had to keep the respect factor in between us up and scare them off if they got too comfortable around me. Elephants pass by on their way to, or from the waterhole. Seeing and smelling a dead elephant eaten by lions could trigger a panic or aggressive reaction towards anyone. My location is not ideal. I am just over 1 km east off ‘Doringstraat Waterhole’, of the beaten track. Close, but not close enough. No tourist would come in this direction. How often the Rangers would drive this track, I wouldn’t know. With a lack of communication in between rangers and a definite shortage of rangers, I would not appear on a ‘Missing person list’ in the near future. Khaudum camp would think I was happily on my way to Sigaretti camp, while ‘Sigaretti camp wouldn’t even know that I entered the Park at all. I wasn’t sure if the Rangers would refill the water pump with diesel every day. If they did, I hoped they would come by to check on the elephant carcass. I have enough food and water for at least 5 days, carefully portioned. There will be no shade for me apart from Zimba’s roof. It will get very hot. I need to observe the lions behaviour and favourite resting spots. In particular when Antilope or other possible prey passes by. I have a high top tent which the lions won’t get up to, I hope. Most importantly though, I can’t afford to panic and possibly make a mistake. These are costly here in the Kalahari Desert.
I didn’t dare to leave the car at first either but had to eventually. I opened the car door and moved with big ‘scaring’ motion towards the lions. This gave them the hoped-for scare and they ran back to the nearby bushes. I marked my territory behind Zimba, keeping a good eye out on the lion pride. They were observing my actions closely in a respectful and anxious way. It was a relieving thought that they are just as scared of me, as I am of them. Plus the fact that they had a gigantic meal lying right in front of them gave me confidence.
Just before lunchtime, the pride disappeared into the thick bush towards the waterhole.
It has gotten a bit hot for them, as it was for me. The two males didn’t or couldn’t move much with their full digesting bellies. Every now and then a head appeared, observing me from the distance. This gave me the opportunity to have a look under Zimba’s bonnet. Very carefully. The batteries were still full, fuses okay and everything else seemed ok as far as I could tell. Yet, still no sign of electric currents. I was actually contemplating to walk the 1000 meters to the waterhole, no doubt someone will pass there sooner or later. That idea was short-lived, as the lions returned to lay under a shade tree, not far from me. Maybe they hoped I would be gone by the time they get back? I couldn’t. The Mercury was pushing temperatures into steaming hot meanwhile. Only the strong trade winds gave some cooling relief. Fortunately, the wind didn’t blow from the carcass in my direction. Every now and then I could smell a whiff of the rotting cadaver. That does not smell nice.
The lions didn’t care too much as hunger was bigger than heat or smell. As a tag team, one by one, they took a few mouthfuls before returning into the shade. This went on all afternoon and was quite cute to watch. I was feeling the heat. Fortunately for me, it wasn’t the first time to sit under Zimba’s roof in these hot conditions. Depending on from what side the sun was shining, I sat on the opposite seat, rearranging rear view mirrors to monitor movement behind me as well.
Later that afternoon, an elephant passed by on his way to the waterhole, seemingly not noticing the feasting lion pride.
When the wind blew a whiff of the dead elephant’s smell, he lifted his trunk and came around to investigate. Only then, he saw the lions and noticed Zimba parked not far. The elephant’s worst enemies combined was too much to handle. He quickly turned around again. I can’t blame him. Around 3 pm, even the youngsters and lioness were full and too hot. They moved further away into the thick shady bush. My hopes of the rangers coming by had faded to slim. I used this time frame to set up the rooftop tent. I was hoping to be safer up there than in the car itself. It gave me a better round view as well and I would be sleeping better than on the driver’s seat.
I placed the large toolbox beside the ladder, lifted Zimba’s bonnet and hoped for the best. I rolled the tent cover on both ends up, giving me a see-through view almost all around me. As the sun was setting lower, one of the lion kings slowly made his way closer and closer.
He rested in various shady spots and watched the young ones attempt to cut through the thick elephant skin. Without the strength and brute force of a strong lion, there was no way through. The lioness ate what she could as the Lion king returned. She knew that once he is eating, she will have to move and wait.
With the sun at its lowest point, the lion king moved straight up towards the elephant carcass.
Daddy was friendly greeted by his young offspring.
A sign of affection and respect, hopeful that he would open this carcass.
He replied his affection quickly but had only one thing in mind.
The lioness moved away as he gave the kids a mighty warning roar to stay away.
I was up in my tent by then as well. This is a bad time to be walking around the car. The almost full moon had risen a few hours earlier and brightened my surroundings clearly.
The youngsters behaved for a little while,
but watching dad feasting was too much to handle.
Over and over, some tried to snatch a piece of meat.
The lion king was not impressed.
Instead of eating, he was being disturbed by his persistent offspring.
Eventually, they realized the kings lion share
and entertained themselves.
It was quite amusing to watch actually.
One very large elephant bull and a smaller one passed the second lion king in the distance and walked straight up towards the elephant carcass.
The young and females ran for cover in my direction, the lion stood his ground.
The large elephant bull came closer and realized that a lion was feasting on one of his kind.
When he blew his mighty trunket, even the lion king accepted surrender, whilst the second lion watched from the distance. The elephant realized there wasn’t much he could do. He had a quick farewell and moved on.
The smaller elephant bull couldn’t believe the scenario. He was distraught by this tragic event, placing his trunk on the unfortunate one, sending out condolences. Seeing the lion king next to the carcass, he probably thought, that he had attacked and killed this unfortunate one. That thought set him running to follow his much bigger partner.
The young ones and females returned shortly after and watched the second lion king approach.
The very quickly fading lights made it impossible to photograph. I just watched and listened to ongoing scenarios quite clearly in the moonlight. Those bone crushing sounds were bone chilling. At some stage, one off them punctured the bladder. The exact sound of a balloon losing air, some extremely mingen smelling gases were released. The wind factor calmed to zero. I had to cover my face with the pillow to prevent puking reflexes. A smell I won’t forget in a hurry. I laid down and listened to the crunching noises not far away when I fell asleep.
The moon was at its highest point in the sky, shining like dimmed a torch. The lion kings had their share, which they announced with an almighty roar. One was lying about 15 meters east of my location. The other was about 50 meters north and replied his call. A bone-chilling roaring duet, that signaled their satisfaction and dominance. A duet I won’t forget. One off the lioness walked seemingly undisturbed passed Zimba, only 5 meters away. This is not a good sign. They either gotten used to my presence or showed less fear towards me. Was I scared? Not really at this stage. I felt fairly safe up above and knew that the lions weren’t hungry anymore. I dozed off again eventually, only to be woken to quietly taken, but heavy footsteps very nearby. A sole elephant passed Zimba only meters away. All I saw was a giant walking boulder passing my tent. With his trunk up in the air, he could smell me, the lions and dead elephant, but only saw an oversized zebra parked in the mixed of it. The lion king had moved into nearby bushes and laid motionless. He still wasn’t very far. This was a tricky situation for everyone, but thankfully the confused elephant moved on and I went back to sleep.