The raw power of lions on safari in Linyanti, Botswana – Roxanne Reid

by MMC
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By Roxanne Reid
On our first afternoon game drive from DumaTau camp in Linyanti, Botswana, we saw wild dogs and a leopard. We were more than delighted. We teased our guide that he would never match or do better on our next ride. But nature had other ideas, showing us the raw power of lions.

Just outside camp, at first light in the morning, our guide Evans Keowetse spotted leopard tracks on an elephant path and drove off-road to see if he could find the elusive cat. It became a bit of a habit: that morning, he found five different sets of leopard tracks. Each time it was a devastating detour, especially if he heard birds calling out in the bushes. He was nothing if not determined.

But we didn’t find any leopards.

What we found was a green wood hoopoe digging through a dead tree trunk looking for borer worms to eat and a trio of ground hornbills strutting around. “See how their legs are covered in scales like an eagle’s,” Evans said. “Snakes’ fangs cannot penetrate these scales, so these birds are good snake killers.”

Elephant with calf, Linyanti Botswana

An elephant and her adorable calf are still testing her trunk

He talked about some local trees, like the Kalahari apple leaf, jackalberry and African mangosteen. We learned that locals use the Kalahari blue bush or star apple as a toothbrush. “You dig up the root and chew it, then you use it like a toothbrush, but it gives you an orange tongue.” People who go to the cattle stations still use them,” he said.

Baboon with baby on back, Linyanti Botswana

Baboon jockey riding on its mother’s back

A female elephant with a calf twitched her ears to let us know that she had seen us and that we should not come any closer. A troop of baboons were feeding nearby and a surprised calf shouted at us and jumped on its mother’s back. Red lechwe walked in the water among the water lilies. An African fish eagle screeched and the wind shook the reeds as we watched the elephants cross towards the palm trees lining the horizon.

An explosion of lions
We crossed a rustic log bridge over the water and found six lions lying next to a termite mound. Some young males were just starting to grow their manes. Two seemed half-alert, lying like sphinxes, their heads up but their eyelids lowered.

Young lions at rest, Linyanti Botswana

Lions resting in the shade of a bush

We were settling in to watch them doze when an unfortunate impala ram came out of a thicket without noticing them. He was so pumped up on testosterone in this rutting season that he wasn’t focusing on the possible dangers around him – and he ended up in trouble.

Start of a lion hunt, Botswana

In a flash: the start of an impromptu hunt, no stalking necessary

Even though their bellies seemed full, this was an opportunity the lions were not going to pass up. Sphinx number 1 launched the charge and the others joined in, fanning out in a pincer movement to prevent the impala from escaping. Other lions appeared behind us where we hadn’t seen them.

Lions about to lunge at an impala ram, Linyanti Botswana

An impala ram heads straight for the lions while its mind is occupied with other things.

Briefly there was the sound of impala in distress, then just the sound of lions growling and cursing each other, blood on their mouths and faces. They huddled together, fighting for their share of the snack. A 60 to 70 kg impala doesn’t go far with 14 mouths to feed.

Eventually, a lioness tore off a paw and moved to a clump of grass about twenty feet away to enjoy it in peace. Two others broke away a little and left in turn. The smallest cub came towards us, tripping on his stomach, spilling his grassy contents onto the ground.

Lions eliminate an impala ram, Linyanti Botswana

The dismantling – the lions had barely moved away from where they were sleeping

In the background, two lions engaged in a fierce fight, their faces covered in blood, spittle streaming onto the ground. If they had hoped that the piece they were arguing over would tear in two, they would have been out of luck. They had to resettle at each end, with a sound of crunching bones.

The entire impala disappeared within 10 to 15 minutes, from a living, breathing animal to nothing but bones for vultures to scavenge.

While it’s electrifying to see the raw power of lions in action, it’s still painful to witness how quickly the transition from life to death occurs for prey. To relieve some of our held-in tension, we stopped at a watering hole for coffee and a recap of events that had unfolded so quickly that we had each only noticed part of the initial drama at the as it unfolded.

But Evans first carefully circled the area to check there were no dangerous predators in the bushes. We weren’t going to make the same mistake as that impala.

Lions fight for the head of an impala, Linyanti Botswana

All over the impala as lions fight for possession of its head

Linyanti from Botswana
​You’ll find the Linyanti Wilderness in northern Botswana, with the Moremi Game Reserve and Okavango Delta to the south and Chobe National Park to the east. Spanning 1,250 square kilometers, it is a place of vast wetlands, floodplains and forests home to wildlife such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, buffalo and numerous elephants. . If you’re a bird watcher, you’ll love spotting some of the nearly 400 species of birds, including the African skimmer, African fish eagle, saddle-billed stork, kingfishers and bee-eaters.

The main source of water for wildlife during the dry season is the Linyanti River, while the mysterious Savuti Canal has a history of disappearing and reappearing. Its flow has been irregular for more than a century and returned after a 30-year drought in 2008. Now it’s dry again. The word Savute means “unpredictable” and its rabbit-in-a-hat trick is linked to the tectonic movement of rock plates beneath the surface.

Linyanti is home to a number of luxury camps offering game drives, guided walks and boat safaris, as well as the opportunity to interact with local communities and experience their traditional way of life. When we enjoyed this lion experience, we were staying at Wilderness’ Douma Tau camp. Fittingly, Duma Tau means “lion’s roar”. We also stayed at Great Plains Conservation’s. Camp Selinda not far away. I can recommend both for exceptional wildlife experiences with fabulously knowledgeable guides.
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