I could not believe how fortunate we had been to catch sightings of wild dogs chasing after a leopard and a hyena on our first day in the Okavango Delta . As I replayed the scenes in my head, I thought to myself, “What a mind-blowing experience we had!”
So, the following day, I headed out for my second game drive in anticipation. I was not sure what to expect, as the wilderness can be so unpredictable. The more ‘glamorous’ animals often do not show up when you want them to. In fact, there are times when you can be driving around the savannah for hours, searching for interesting sights, only to be rewarded with a mere glimpse of a scrub hare.
Personally, I am not overly concerned as my priorities are a bit different. I just love the feeling of being out in the bush, experiencing a sense of freedom in the vast openness of the African plains. These simple desires are enough to captivate me and to take my breath away.
We boarded our small boat and headed back to the jetty where our vehicle was waiting. As we cruised along the peaceful channel, I dipped my fingers into the water and thought to myself, “The Okavango Delta. Such a magical place!”
A few minutes later, we arrived at the jetty. With the help of Bill and Sevara, my camera equipment was carefully loaded into the vehicle. Once we had settled down comfortably, Severa started the engine and soon we were off for another new adventure.
The ride was bumpy as we drove across the rough African terrain. Our poor backs and buttocks were sore, but none of this mattered.
I began to survey every inch of the plains meticulously, hoping to spot a cheetah weaving its way through the tall grass. It was not an easy task as my eyes are not trained to spot camouflaged wildlife.
I was just about to give up when Severa, with his experienced ‘bush-eyes’, managed to spot a coalition of male lions in the far distance. Excited and happy with our new discovery, we quickly and discreetly made our way towards the big cats.
We counted four massive male lions lolling around by the bushes. They basked under the sun without a care in the world, unperturbed by our presence as we approached them.
One of them was sprawled on the ground, unashamedly baring his underside. Another let out a huge yawn, exposing his fearsome canines. Their broad muzzles were covered with old battle scars, possibly inflicted by their enemies during fights over a kill, a territory or a mate.
As we looked on, the largest of the lions, got up and exposed his muscular, tawny body. He shook his huge dark mane and looked around his ‘kingdom’. Without any warning, he let out a huge deafening roar, as if to say, “Whose land is this? Whose land is this? It is mine! It is mine! It is MINE!”
It was an intimidating moment, knowing that a swipe from one of those mighty paws could easily kill me. Being next to the ‘king of the beasts’ made me feel so small and insignificant.
As I regained my composure, I picked up my camera, pointed it at the dark-maned lion and began to click away furiously. Sensing that his picture was being taken, he looked into my camera and began to strike some poses. To have such a strong and beautiful subject as a model would be any photographer’s dream come true. Here he was, right in front of me. He was simply perfect!
As we sat there for the next couple of hours, I began to feel a sense of sadness that these majestic cats are being driven to the brink of extinction. Over the past two decades, the lion population has been decreasing drastically. One of the reasons for such a huge decline is that they are often hunted as trophies. I find this ‘sport’ extremely distasteful. I just cannot understand how anyone could feel the urge to shoot such a magnificent animal?
The thought of there being no lions roaming the African plains is enough to break my heart. I put my camera away, sat back and simply enjoyed the company of these beautiful creatures.