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Walking in the Okavango, Botswana is full of surprises

Guests were enjoying a morning walking Okavango safari at  Footsteps Across the Delta in the northern Okavango Delta, the rising summer temperatures dictating an early start. The guides noted lions roaring in the mid morning, several kilometres away. The lateness of their activity led the guides to suspect that the males were challenging other lions which may have ventured into their territory, and so a vehicle was then requested from base camp to collect the walking party and allow further investgation.

Within minutes of beginning the search of the area in which the sounds were thought to originate, a big male lion was spotted. The lion was moving at a fast walk, flashing glances in all directions. The lion was clearly extremely agitated and was followed at distance for about twenty minutes. During this time, other lions were still heard calling nearby, along with the sound of splashing water. The presently unseen lions were clearly nearby and crossing water in a hurry. It appeared that these animals were tracking the lone male that was so obviously distressed. The single male eventually walked alongside the stationary vehicle and paused, still looking furtively into the surrounding bush. Suddenly, two other males were spotted moving toward the single male, using the low scrub and grass as cover. Clearly something dramatic was about to unfold around the vehicle and its passengers.

The single male was still relatively calm, as he was clearly unaware of the approaching lions, which were now using the vehicle as cover and rapidly closing the distance between them and their quarry. Fortunately for the single male, a nearby troop of baboons were also observing the events unfolding and while their vocal announcement of potential danger would usually be a problem for a hunting lion, in this case they no doubt saved the life of this lone male. The approaching pair were spotted before they could get in position for the final sprint and the three lions crashed away through the vegetation, the lone male running for his life tailed closely by his aggressors.

No time to draw breath..

As the lions crashed away into the undergrowth, everyone tried to digest the dramatic events which had just unfolded around them. Huge male lions are rarely seen in action and are a mighty and overwhelmingly powerful animal, who's speed and sheer power is often underestimated. The guides and guests then noticed a large cloud of dust was noticed several hundred metres away and so the party moved off to investigate.

The vehicle arrived to find that the dust was created by two other large male lions, pounding a single lioness mercilessly despite her best attempts to defend herself. As the vehicle approached, the larger of the two males pinned the lioness down using only his body weight and the lioness was utterly beaten and submissive. Further investigation of the other location of the other male lions found no trace and the guides suspected that the single male may have been luckier than his female companion, and escaped the attentions of his pursuers.

Several hours after leaving camp for a  leisurely morning walk the party returned. However, after lunch as the guests wandered towards their tents, a single female lion was spotted resting at the rear of camp. It appeared that the injured lioness had managed to escape attentions of the two male lions and had found her way into camp.

The late afternoon saw guides and guests set out in the vehicle to further investigate the fate of the single male and the present location of the four pride males. No sign of the four lions or the single male were apparent and a relatively subdued drive was enjoyed by all, culminating in the traditional sundowners and a sunset as can only be made in Africa.  As the last light of day dwindled away, lions were heard calling close by. After a brief search along the hippo paths and game trails, two of the lions were found walking and calling. Close by the other pair were heard responding and both pairs appeared to be moving together.

After several minutes the two pairs met and began greeting each other, reaffirming the bonds which unite them and which ensure that they are able to dominate their pridal territory.

Amazingly, the day's events were still not yet complete. On retiring after dinner, the guide then found the lioness lying under the front eave of his tent. Some coaxing with the spotlight allowed the guide to enter his tent as the lioness moved slowly away. Shortly after getting into bed, some rustling in the leaves caused the guide to turn his torch back on and he found the lioness had returned to lie immediately in front of the tent. The four males were not far away and the lioness clearly was still very nervous. Both guide and lioness went to sleep with the sounds of the distant roaring of the pride males in their ears.

Dawn found the lioness still resting, now at the rear of the tent. Observations of her injuries and the almost total response to humans around her, suggested her injuries were extremely serious. The lioness remained in the vicinity of the camp for the rest of the day and finally a government wildlife vet was requested to fly in and assess the lioness' injuries. Sadly before the wildlife vet could reach the animal she died, which considering the severity of her injuries was unsurprising but undoubtably saved her a great deal of suffering.