Harvey’s Pan in Botswana’s renowned Savute region seems to be occupied by a pair of rather ferocious king cats! After 2 nights of roaring heard at Camp Savuti, a fierce-looking male and his equally stern lioness were located in the shade near one of Harvey’s Pan waterholes. Keeping well hidden, these cats were a mystery during the day, but as night fell on the Savute Marsh, their calls lingered in the dark, proclaiming their territory.
On day 3, we found them, keeping a close watch on the thirsty elephants from their discreet position at the foot of a bush. Elephants roam the plains of the Savute in large numbers. From big, breeding herds of impatient females and their cheeky offspring, to lone bulls moving their wrinkled masses through the heat of the day. Known as the place where lions prey on elephants, the landscape is decorated with the bleached bones of the giant mammals, and one is always in hope of witnessing the epic event.
This male lion boasted a superb black mane, coating his shoulder blades and proudly framing his worn face. He rose from his resting place and crossed the pan for all to see – finally, the battle-scarred face beind the nocturnal roars, revealed. Uninterested in the potential prey species that stood still in his peripheral vision, he joined his female accomplice in the shade and surveyed our vehicle with distrust. Noted was his right eye, circled with a dark scar; a blemish on his handsome, golden face. A temperament for combat, this cat was not afraid of a fight.
Now that the pair had been located after a couple of fruitless days of searching, they were a popular sight, and we were soon joined by a second vehicle. In a flurry of activity, lens caps were removed and sunglasses were replaced by cameras, as excited guests aimed to get their best shot. All this disturbance set off this short-tempered lion king, and his tail began to flick to and fro. Head lowered beneath the tall grass, and a moment of absolute stillness commenced before he charged out from his shady nook and bolted towards the vehicle in a thunder of vocal warning.
His lightning fast movements and the frozen reaction from all the onlookers meant that no one managed a photograph before he sulkily returned to his lady in waiting. Not to worry, opportunity number 2 followed soon after the first, and before we knew it, this disgruntled lion charged again, stopping mere metres from our neighbouring vehicle.
Sometimes, one is fortunate enough to watch the king of the jungle, his queens and his young royals for hours on end without so much as a lifted head; but this time, the couple clearly wanted their privacy and had stayed hidden for a reason. The Savute Marsh is lion territory, and we had certainly trespassed, uninvited.