It was one of those very memorable sightings one can only really expect from the legendary Savute marsh. Wildlife is unpredictable everywhere in Africa, throwing indescribable beauty at you around every turn, but there is something mysteriously magical about the Savuti, starting with the Savuti Channel that sprung from dormancy, to life, after 30 years.
One hot afternoon game drive with Camp Savuti took us in and around a tree-filled island following the tracks of lions we were desperate to see. We had already been treated to a wild dog chase, and to the grumpy disposition of another leading lion, and now we were getting greedy! The famous pride that is known to hunt and kill elephants was once 30 lions strong, but the resurgence of the Savuti Channel separated the pride, as the population of prey species increased and they no longer relied on the strength of one large pride.
Today, members of this epic pride still exist, and the skill of the elephant hunters is still practised and maintained in the Savuti. What we were after was the modern version of this pride, and we were on the right path with tracks of big males, females, and younger cubs littering the road. We were eventually following our own tyre tracks and still no sign of these lions, but the evidence showed that they must be close by.
Then, as we were about to cross the shallowest part of the channel for the third time, a golden mane perked up ever so lazily from the lush, green grass in the shade of a bush. After some excited pointing and gasping, we repositioned our vehicle so unbelieveably close to this male lion that we could see every scar on his face. Completely unperturbed by our presence, this beautiful big cat continued with his afternoon snooze.
We were so thrilled with finally locating this beauty, we had forgotten about the pitter patter of smaller paw prints that had danced around his in the sand. Sure enough, as curious as cubs can be, one, two, then three lion cubs emerged from the large, dome-shaped bush they had been seeking shade in. Cameras began clicking away among exclaimations only afiliated with lion cubs. Then, a sleek lioness stepped out from the shrubbery, stretching and shaking off her sleepiness.
We were completely stunned by what we were seeing, and soon lost count as more and more lions revealed themselves in the late afternoon sun. A second large male migrated from one area of shade to another, clearly not ready for the evening’s activities. The cubs began to pounce on one another, bounding through the grass in a fearless fashion, nipping at their siblings’ black-tipped tails, and taking a light beating from older brothers and sisters. Thirteen lions we counted. It was a spectacle, a true demonstration of what the Savute Marsh has to offer.
See this sighting in video form right here:
The sun was beginning to set and it was soon time to head back to Camp Savuti’s welcoming bonfire on the banks of the channel. The pride was beginning to get restless, and even one of the males had risen to take a drink from the river – a clear sign that the group was getting active for the evening’s hunt. As desperate as we were to stay and follow them through the night, we bid a regretful farewell and left the epic scene. Pulling up to the lodge, the dancing glow of the fire welcomed the guests to a magical evening under the stars… and there’s no guessing the topic of conversation that dominated the dinner table that night.