Following lions on foot

Pamushana | May 2018

One morning, after leaving the lodge with the plan of finding fresh white rhino tracks for us to follow and hopefully locate the owner, we hadn’t progressed very far before our plans were put on hold. Just by the old hyena den on West Valley Road that leads from the lodge there was a breeding herd of buffalo (Syncerus caffer) on one side of the road, and on the opposite side of the road, lying alert under the magnificent mountain acacias (Brachystegia tamerandoides) were the younger members of the Chiredzi River Pride of lions (Panthera leo).

We sat and watched the play in front of us, expecting a mad stampede from the buffalo as the hiding pride adults came boiling out of their ambushing places to attack the bovids. Well, just as our plans to go and track the rhino early in the morning never happened, neither did the hunt.

The youngest members of the pride could hardly believe their eyes, seeing their favourite food source so close, but not being able to have any of it. Leaning against a tree trunk was a young adult lioness, the most promising instigator of a hunt, but she seemed reluctant to get going and yawned extravagantly instead. At one point a cub got up, walked over to her, put a paw on her back, and seemingly directed her gaze towards the buffalo.

Without any sign of the older experienced hunters making a move the youngsters got up and headed quickly for the hills. We tried to anticipate their movements and where they were likely to pop out into a clearing, but after 30 minutes of no luck that plan too had to be changed.

Curious as to what happened to the lions I decided the best plan would be to go back to where we last saw them walk into the bush and then track them from there, through the hills.

There is something pretty exciting about tracking lions on foot and this walk was no different. The lions finally joined one of the major hippo trails leading from the dam. At the pace the lions took off when we saw them,

Robert (my tracker) and I were certain we would have to track them for a long time before we would catch up to them. As always it’s a great pleasure watching Robert at work reading the signs left by animals as they move through the bush.

In the end we did not have to walk too far to find the entire pride fast asleep. The hills around them made for a great place for us to climb and watch them. We spied the lions for quite a while before one of the cubs saw us. It was kind of a funny moment as he did a ‘double take’ when he noticed us.

It took a while before the whole pride moved off.

It was a great change to watching lions from a vehicle and we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience of walking in the bush.