In search of the king
To us this animal is iconic for wildlife in Africa. I am not talking about the elephant or rhino, but the king of the plains, the mighty lion. With its strong roar it shows who is the boss. It’s an animal that doesn’t need to flea when humans approach or even other animals. It will stay firm and slowly but graciously moves to its destination. If I could choose which animal I would like to be, it would be the lion.
In our whole life we only once have seen a lion. It was when we travelled through Moremi NP in Botswana and by accident stumbled upon a male and female who were walking around in search of some shade. We had the pleasure to see it pretty close, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy our hunger. And so, know one thing was sure, we had to and were going to see a lion up close. Many destinations could be an option in Botswana, but we heard that the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park would be the best bet.
The Kgalagadi is a park in the south/west of Botswana and it shares its park with South Africa. It is one of Africa’s largest park with 38.000 m2 in size. It is an immense wilderness of grass-covered dunes traversed by two dry, ancient riverbeds, the Nossob and the Auob. The park is unfenced, allowing for wildlife to move freely along these ancient migration routes.
The park has three major areas to explore, the Nossob River valley, the wilderness trails on the Botswana side and the area around Mabuasehube. This area is typical for Botswana with the Kglagadi tree and shrub savanna with patches of wide open grass savanna. Several large pans brake up this surrounding and it is these large pans where you will find wildlife doting together, at the waterholes. There a few campsites around the pans that give amazing view over the pans, thus making for good game viewing right from your campsite chair.
Friends of us, that visited the park before, told us that the Mpayathutlwa pan would be the best to see lions up close. They even had lions on their campsite. A look on iOverlander (an app with reviews of campsites) told us as the same and so we booked a campsite right at the pan.
From the gate, were we entered, it was still 45 minutes’ drive to the pan. The change of seeing a lion in the dry savannah bush would be slim. The grass would be to high for him to give chase whereas his prey would easily and quickly jump away. But you never know and so I was on top of the car, looking through the binoculars under trees and behind bushes while Inge was listening to every sound that could resemble this mighty beast. On the left she shouted, but unfortunately it was only an Oryx.
We continued to the waterhole, which was just on the border of the pan, and waited for an hour. We found Jackals catching birds while they were drinking water, Springboks and Blue Wildebeast. The lion was still not in sight. We drove back to our campsite and went to bed early, but when we were about to climb into the car a massive roar shaked the skies and we were up and awake. This was very close by, maybe 30 metres away. Excited as we were, we moved our torch towards the sound. The lion on the other hand didn’t showed itself and after a couple of roars we went to bed. We would continue our hunt early morning.
Our alarm went of at 5 o’clock in the morning. It was cold, so we packed ourselves with many layers of cloths as we would be piching near the waterhole for a while without the heat of the engine. The lion, again, wasn’t there and we were discussing if we should move to one of the other pans. Suddenly, a roar was coming somewhere out of the bush. Hard to pinpoint exactly its location we drove towards the sound and stopped the car, hoping the lion would roar again. Ten minutes passed by without a noise and we were almost about to give up when suddenly a big roar was coming somewhere close by. Again, we drove towards the sound and as we didn’t see the lion we waited and waited and waited, until suddenly the roar was so close by that we knew that we where about to meet the king of the Kgalagadi.
We turned our car into the bush, even though there was no track and stopped in the hope we would see him or hear him. After 5 minutes, it finally showed itself behind a bush. It was yawning like it wanted to tell us “okay guys, here I am, you found me”. Our hearts skipped a beat and for a few seconds we were frozen, before we grabbed our camera’s and started filming and shooting its amazing gold coloured feature with dark, almost black manes. It had a scare on his face and light brown coloured eyes that were piercing into ours.
The lion started moving slowly which gave us the chance to follow it up close. We followed it for hundreds of meters all the way to waterhole. And the best thing was, we were the only ones, besides the animals that kept their distance as to avoid becoming prey. Occasionally it looked back at the car which gave us the space to shoot even better pictures.
Upon the waterhole more cars close in on the lion. The lion on the other hand still didn’t care and took his time to enjoy the fresh water. After his thirst was lessened he walked away, about 20 meters or say, and laid down while watching over the pan. He was just leisurely doing its thing with no care in the world or fear of any animal or human. It was truly breath-taking to see this glorious animal up close. And what a privilege it gave us, as he allowed us to follow him for more than an hour. It truly is a king to behold.
Love, Chris & Inge