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Africa Geographic Travel

Original Source: yearinthewild.com

After Mabuasehube Game Reserve, I headed back to Nossob, then moved north to Ta Shebube Lodge near Polentswa. This is the sister lodge of the one further south near Rooiputs, where I stayed ten days ago.

The fire area and dining room at Ta Shebube at Polentswa.
The fire area and dining room at Ta Shebube at Polentswa.

It’s got a spectacular location on top of a dune, overlooking the wide Nossob River valley, and I prefer the tented camp “feel and look” to the more formal wooden chalets at Rooiputs. Seems more in keeping with the wilderness surroundings.

Ta Shebube Lodge at Polentswa, seen from a few kms away, with the dry Nossob River bed in the foreground.
Ta Shebube Lodge at Polentswa, seen from a few kms away, with the dry Nossob River bed in the foreground.

The lodge at Polentswa, fortunately, is several kms away from the old, small campsite, which can be booked by 4x4ers through Botswana Parks. So the campers can’t see the lodge, and vice versa – unlike at Rooiputs, where the wilderness atmosphere is compromised somewhat by the proximity of the campsite and lodge.

Anyway, the reason I was looking forward to coming to Polentswa is because of the predators, especially lions and leopards. I’ve heard it’s one of the best places in Kgalagadi to see leopard. I haven’t seen any yet, but guide Keitumetse Mogale (KT) and I did witness a territorial stand off between several lions.

A late afternoon drive was fruitless and we were both feeling pretty hot and tired by the time we were driving back to the lodge, but decided on a whim to check out Polentswa waterhole, a few kms west of the lodge.

Sure enough, like so often when you least expect it, things started happening. We saw three male lions; one older one and two youngsters, their manes just emerging, stalking another young, but huge, black-maned lion that was standing under a shepherds tree, looking particularly impressive and intimidating.

The intruder...before the chase.
The intruder…
Stalking the intruder...
Stalking the intruder…

Well, appearances are deceptive, because the three lions sprinted toward the big male, who realised he was outnumbered and hightailed it like a sheepish, frightened house cat across the dry riverbed.

KT and I drove quickly back along the lodge road, knowing we’d intercept them again. Sure enough, we saw them and the three lions were chasing the big male.

Chasing after the intruder.
Chasing after the intruder.
When a lion puts his mind to it, he can MOVE!
When a lion puts his mind to it, he can MOVE!

I kept taking photos as the fleeing male came closer and closer, and then realized that he wasn’t about to change direction for us. Only at the last minute did he veer to the left of our landy, running past us within metres, panting heavily. He didn’t look at us at all. He looked desperate to get away. (As KT later said, if the other three had got hold of him, they could have killed him, or mauled him so badly that he’d be maimed.)

Running scared, the fugitive.
Running scared, the fugitive.
In hot pursuit. Can you see the other lion in the background?
In hot pursuit. Can you see the other lion in the background?

Then the other three, still chasing, also came straight past us, and ended up standing in the middle of the Polentswa campsite, where several alarmed campers quickly jumped straight into their cars or up into their rooftop tents!

After several minutes, the action died down, and the fugitive male was nowhere to be seen. Then the three victorious males all started roaring, as if to say: “This is our territory now.”

Confidence...the next morning after the territory has been won.
Confidence… the next morning after the territory has been won.

KT told me that these three males had in fact already displaced two older territorial males, and now they had chased away another young male. Will these three young males continue to hold the Polentswa territory, or will the fugitives return with back-up and try wrestle the land back?

What’s really interesting is that when the three males were chasing the fleeing male, they ran straight past a herd of wildebeest, who scattered in all directions, yet the lions were not at all interested in the opportunity for fresh meat. Maybe territory is more important to males than a plate of food! First secure your territory, then eat, then find a female… priorities!

The next morning, we again saw the three victorious males at Polentswa waterhole. They were decidedly more relaxed, playing around and showing particular interest in the pump for the waterhole. We’ll head back there regularly in the next few days to see what goes down…

Playing around...
Playing around…
warming up in the morning sun.
Warming up in the morning sun.
"Give me some fresh water!"
“Give me some fresh water!”
"How does this pump work?"
“How does this pump work?”
Africa Geographic Travel
Scott Ramsay

Photojournalist Scott Ramsay focuses on exploring the national parks, nature reserves and community conservancies in Southern Africa, taking photographs and interviewing the experts who work in these protected areas. Through his work, he hopes to inspire others to travel to the continent's wild places, which Scott believes are Africa's greatest long term assets. For more, go to www.LoveWildAfrica.com or www.facebook.com/LoveWildAfrica. Partners include Ford Ranger, Goodyear, Cape Union Mart, K-Way, EeziAwn, Frontrunner, Hetzner and Globecomm.