This morning as we woke to a clear sky there was a different type of a chill in the air, one that made you zip up your jacket just that much further and huddle round the fire while drinking a fresh cup of coffee as we waited for the rest of the guests to join us on the morning drive.
The chill in the air didn’t seem to bother the birds as they welcomed the rising sun with a melody of squawks and whistles. A kudu barked in the distance which gave us direction for the morning drive. It was a loud raspy bark similar to that of a dog, and by the volume wasn’t too far away. A quick chat with the guests as they hunkered down under the over-sized blankets and we were off, heading through down the entrance and into the reserve. It wasn’t long before Tico spotted a few crows and jackal up against the side of the ridge. We went to investigate. What was left were mere scraps of what would have been a big meal for the animal that caught it. A little investigative work and we came to the conclusion that the prey was too big for the jackal and the size of the bones that were crushed meant something larger had been there first.
When looking for clues it is always good to cover the area well and the best approach to finding tracks is to walk in ever increasing circles until you pick up on what you are looking for. This morning it was one of two animals, lion or hyena. Once we reached the edge of the road, now some distance from the kill itself, we picked up on one lion print. The track, judging by its size, belonged to none other than our territorial male. With this in mind, we were on our way. With Tico walking in front of the vehicle and the guests scanning the grass and shrub in the area, we headed off on the tracks across one of the many streams and up a long hill where we found signs of scent marking on the odd bush and the flattened-out ground where he had lain moments before. We pushed on slowly as the shale made tracking difficult and the tracks started to disappear.
By this stage, Tico had joined us up on his seat and we started searching once more for the tracks we had just lost It was decision time and we opted to leave him to his day. Tracking a lion can be a very rewarding experience but sometimes you just need to call an end to the tracking when conditions become dangerous. Tall grass and a big cat make for an unpredictable situation. This morning ended just like that, with the last of the tracks heading into the long grass on the side of the hill.
It was with a look of disappointment on the guests faces that we called off the search and headed up the hill for some coffee and to come up with a new plan. We decided to take a slow amble back to the camp and take in whatever wanted to present itself.
Sometimes the drive is action packed and other times the African bush keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting in anticipation for that glimpse of a lion’s mane through the long grass or the flick of a tail to give away the sleeping cat’s position. But the one thing we can count on is that every drive is different and that even a “quiet drive” is filled with the sights, sounds and smells of the African bush.
- Brett Hoy, game guide at Nambiti HIlls Private Game Lodge
Photo by Clinton Friedman