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Epic Lion Hunt in Etosha

I saw my first ever wild lion at Charitsaub waterhole while I was travelling on an overlanding trip in 2012.   She lapped the water gently, a brief moment of relief from the steaming heat of that September day.  I was captivated.
During the same trip we met a male lion who had been left to babysit four tiny cubs while their mother was away hunting.
On subsequent trips to Etosha I’ve encountered lions sleeping under trees, more lion cubs and even a group of lions who spontaneously ambushed a family of elephants on my trip with clients last September.  We were tagging along in Etosha in two vehicles and we decided to take a lesser known side route.  When we did we saw a family of elephants, a bull elephant, two females and a little baby crossing the road in front of us.  We stopped to watch them.  It is my policy on all of my trips to give wild animals the right of way on safari.  I would rather stop my vehicles and just let them be.  I rarely give chase and I always try to never drive between groups of animals, separating herds.  As we sat and watched this small family group cross, we were oblivious to the fact that a pride of lions was sleeping in the long grass on the side of the road.  We only found out about them when the lions saw the baby, the bull saw the lions and burst into a furious alarm display of feet stamping, trunk waving and trumpeting.  He was desperately trying to intercept the lions and get them away from the others.  Thankfully for the elephants this elaborate act proved successful.  For us it was an adrenaline filled twenty minutes that became one of the highlights of our trip.
I read recently there are now less than 1000 lions left in Namibia and the cats in Etosha are representative of the country’s largest population.  When we were there two weeks ago, we saw nine lions in a day, nearly .01% of the total population of lions in Namibia.  We were blessed by three encounters – one with a lone mail wandering in the early morning sun near Okondeka, another where five lions in a small pride of two males and three males were resting beside the road between Halali and Okaukuejo and a third encounter which was so stunning and lucky, that I shall remember it for the rest of my days.
On the second day of the trip in Etosha with my parents we meandered our way from Halali to Okaukuejo visiting waterholes.  It was a quiet morning.  We saw a Black-backed Jackal get up and run into the morning sun as we drove out of the gate of Halali.  Nearby a Springbok grazed the savannah grasses for breakfast.  We drove past an ambling Wildebeest who decided that the road was an easier path than the rocky plains surrounding us.
At Charitsaub the quietness seemed to be continuing.  A lone zebra was at the waterhole taking a drink.  Enjoying the first light of day, we stopped to watch it.
And then I saw her.  “Lion!” I said to my parents.  “There’s a lion in the grass just near us!”.  At first they struggled to see what I was looking at.
The zebra finished drinking and we watched it wander up to a nearby hillock.  The lioness, realising it had a vulnerable, solo animal that had been separated from its dazzle, began to stalk it.
“Oh my god!  That lion surely can’t be going  to take that zebra on on its own!”  I said to my parents.  “The zebra will out run it and get away”.  As the zebra approached the hillock it saw the lioness and took flight on a short run.  Then it stopped.  Realising the lioness was working with three other lionesses as a team, it was doomed.  It knew it immediately.  We watched as four lionesses took the zebra down right before our eyes!
 
The other Zebras in the dazzle watched on in dismay at the loss of one of their own.
In a gruesome display, the lionesses took several attempts to kill this poor little zebra.  It sadly wasn’t an instant thing.  My parents and I were transfixed, each of us wondering what was going to happen next.
 One of the Dutch guys asked me what I thought might happen next “Do you think they need to drink?”.  As he said this I noticed some gathering Black-backed Jackals.  The smell of the kill had lured a pack of them in from downwind.
 More jackals began to appear but the lions stayed, defending their kill.
I replied “No.  I think they are probably going to stay and try to protect their catch from the jackals” to them.  Then the lions proved me wrong.  Two of them broke away from the kill and headed back to the same waterhole the zebra used to take a drink while the other two supervised their zebra.
 They edged nearer and nearer, the marks of their kill still evident in their fur and on their faces.
 Then they literally dropped on to their haunches around 35 metres from our car to drink!
The whole scene left us torn between feeling sorry for the poor little zebra and also with a quiet understanding that lions need to eat too.  It was awe inspiring to watch this unfold.
I always share these stories of my lion luck with some trepidation.  My trip to Etosha in 2017 only has one space remaining and I feel that these experiences are what draw people to my journeys.  The reality is we were just lucky.  Nature is nature.  Nothing about this situation was controlled or contrived in any way.  It simply transpired right in front of us.  The lions were completely unconcerned by our presence and we stayed with them for over two hours.
Who knows what my next trip to Etosha will bring?

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