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It was 02:15 and my final morning of a 17 day safari in Botswana and South Africa with guests Ralf and Perdita Lubbe Scheurmann. I was fast asleep until the mighty roar of a male lion woke me up. I could hear how the predator came closer and closer to my luxurious tent as the bone shivering sound echoed over the lush water paradise of the Okavango Delta.

Now wide awake; I listened to the Skimmer male lion repeatedly roaring and I thought of the incredible sightings we were privileged enough to observe and photograph in more than 2 weeks on safari. Ralf and Perdita’s safari started with 2 days of Great White shark photography in Simons Town. On our second day we saw a Great White shark catching and killing a South African Fur seal less than 60 meters from our boat, repeatedly breaching in pursue of its prey.

The last 10 days in Botswana we watched and photographed huge herds of elephants, various species of birds and gigantic crocodiles from the comfort of our tiny motor boat in Chobe National Park. And we spent no less than 20 hours following, sitting and observing a coalition of 3 male cheetahs in the Linyanti Game Reserve.

But we knew that we reached the climax of our safari as soon as we touched down on the dirt air strip of Duba Plains. Situated in the heart of the Okavango Delta, Duba Plains is one of the remotest camps in Botswana and the scene for various documentaries filmed by National Geographic Explorers in Residence, Derek and Beverly Joubert.

Like many before us we came to Duba hoping to observe the relentless battle between the Tsaro pride of lions and a single herd of Cape buffalo. The pride caught and killed 4 buffalo the day before we arrived and even though we all wished it was us; I knew it wasn’t our time yet.

Our guide was none other than James ‘007’ Kebalibele. James has been at Duba for more than 15 years and knows this part of Africa better than anyone else. On our first afternoon, after being stuck in deep mud for more than an hour and witnessing some of the most incredible driving, James managed to get our vehicle right next to the pride as they slowly woke up and started to feed off the mass amount of meat in pure golden sun light. We watched the African sun going down that afternoon and I couldn’t help the feeling of extreme optimism about what may lay ahead of us.

We spent the next 3 days carefully listening as James shared the ups and downs of the Tsaro pride, their history, their successes and their failures. The sightings he has observed and the battles he has witnessed. James made us realize that we first need to understand and comprehend the dynamics of this unique pride of lions, before we can truly appreciate what it means to see the Tsaro Pride in action.

Similar to the 15 mornings before this one we met before sunrise for a cup of coffee before starting our drive. James suggested that we head straight to the airstrip where we left the herd of buffalo the night before. It was just before 6 o clock and we weren’t even driving 100 meters down the strip before James’s located 5 sets of golden eyes shining brightly in the beam of his spotlight. We watched the 5 lionesses playing and lying around before they headed straight to the resting buffalo.

While viewing the 5 lions the Skimmer male, who woke me up hours before, arrived on the scene. Minutes later another 3 lions arrived and this was it, the pride composition was now complete and we all knew the Tsaro were ready to hunt.

The buffalo were lying in thick bush and with short but calculated charges the lions slowly drove the bovines out of their comfort zone. With a relentless ‘stab’ at the buffalo the lions managed to bring fear into their prey, as the buffalo turned and ran away a lioness jumped on an adult female buffalo. Luckily for the cow the rest of the herd retaliated and managed to chase the felines a way. The buffalo kept on running with the lions in hot pursuit. The Tsaro Pride got back into formation and with a calculated move one lioness jumped onto a buffalo cow and brought her to her knees. The rest of the pride joined in and within minutes the helpless buffalo were surrounded by hungry felines. With their deadly weaponry of razor sharp claws and teeth the lions killed the buffalo.

We were at the sighting for almost 5 hours. From the point of attack on the first buffalo cow that got away to minutes before we sadly had to leave in order to catch our flight back to Maun, nobody said a word. We all just watched in awe as we were privileged enough to see, hear and feel the power of Duba Plains’ Tsaro Pride.

 

Ndumu River Lodge
Marius Coetzee

Marius Coetzee is a professional safari leader and award-winning wildlife photographer . His photos have graced the covers and pages of numerous publications including Africa Geographic. Marius spent many years in the world renowned Sabi Sands Game Reserve, bordering Kruger National Park. Here he made the area’s celebrated leopards his principal photographic subject. This led to a 12 page portfolio on these shy and elusive felines in the world’s biggest natural history magazine; BBC Wildlife. With over 11 years experience in the safari industry, Marius’ knowledge of and enthusiasm for both wildlife and photography are encyclopedic.