It always fascinates me how a guide knows where to take us when out on a drive. Sometimes he or she will have spoken to other guides on Thanda and been given information about animal sightings. Other times s/he will ask the clients or volunteers whether there is anything specific they would like to see, and then head in the direction of where those particular animals usually roam. Often though, we will drive around seeing if there are any paw or hoof prints or animal droppings or dung on the track. Other things to watch out for are circling vultures, signs of a (dead) animal being dragged through the bush into the undergrowth, and I’m sure numerous others, of which I have no knowledge (yet?) There may be the alarm call or bark of a startled bird or animal, or animals intently looking in one direction, or another sense entirely – smell.
On one particular drive this week, our guide suddenly left the track and we bounced over the scrub and grasses with no idea of what he had seen or where we were heading. Then suddenly, in the long grass under the shade of a tree was a huge male lion. We asked him how he knew, and he simply said “I smelled lions”. Of course we were all completely oblivious to this, even when we were sitting right next to one!
(Please don’t continue to scroll down if you will be upset by the sight of two dead zebra)
Under another tree was a lioness with her cubs, and under another bush was another lioness, also with cubs. We suddenly saw that they were all covered in blood. A short distance away was the reason – they had made a kill in the night. It was instantly apparent why this particular Zebra had been caught – she was pregnant and must have been almost full term. Interestingly the lions had not touched the foetus so I don’t know whether they will go back for more or whether the Hyenas will have that.
As we were watching the different groups of lions, they gradually moved together and all lay down in the shade of the biggest tree – the pride doing what they do best in the heat of the day – sleeping 🙂