Hide and seek was the name of the game in Dambwa on the 19th of December. That morning we’d found the lions crossing from Sahara into Chisamu; minutes before we’d spotted a herd of impala 100 or so metres away from where we had met the lions. Temi seemed clued in and after a brief pause on the road’s junction ploughed headlong into a thicket leading the pride into Chisamu. First they headed South, then to the West, and back East - it was clear after an hour that the impala had the upper hand as the pride finally came to rest on the border of Tsavo. From here, we could see the impala 150m away to the North. With the vegetation getting thicker by the day courtesy of the rains, the impala were well enough concealed from the lions on this occasion.
Kela and Leya continue the search for the impala, while Zulu and Rusha take a load off
Over the next few weeks it was a bit of a struggle to get in the site between downpours and when we did we often couldn’t follow the lions on their moves when they moved into waterlogged areas of the site.
Finally on the 29th we were able to catch up to them in Sibaka in the South West of the site. A back-drop of 40+ vultures in the Sanga treeline confirmed the scavenge left the previous day had been located by more than just the lions. While bellies were full, most of the girls seemed restless and eventually Leya led them (with a reluctant Zulu trailing behind) to a superior patch of shade.
The girls head for better cover
It seemed that a lazy morning was in store, when Zulu’s passion/hatred (or passionate hatred?) of all things avian reared its head. The vultures which had been eyeing the lions’ latest meal spot decided that with the lions having moved off it was now their turn. They could think again. At the first sound of the ruffle of their feathers as some scouts took off from the treeline Zulu was up and marching back to the scavenge site. We couldn’t see it anymore, but were still close enough to see the vultures fly up into the trees a few moments later. After a couple of minutes Zulu emerged, marching back and plonked himself amongst the females…
Less than five minutes later, the sound of beating wings had him marching back to the carcass and the vultures went flying up into the trees again, and again, a couple of minutes later Zulu returned. Over and over again this happened for pretty much the rest of the morning; on one occasion he didn’t even make it all the way back before turning on his heels mid-march and running this time back to defend what couldn’t even be described as paltry scraps. The revolving Zulu in turn ignited Rusha’s mischievous side and on several of his returns she pounced on him trying to drag him to the ground, only for him to shrug her off, sit down and wait for the vultures’ next move.
Rusha welcomes Zulu back
The last few days of the year were spent in this part of the site, and on New Year’s Eve we found they’d made the monumental journey across the road and into Kariba. The dark skies above rumbled all afternoon with bolts of lightning flashing away to the West, but any rain coming our way held out until after we’d left. It was a quiet end to 2012, and despite the cool weather and a lengthy grooming session between the girls, our last few hours of 2012 with the pride was spent watching them do what only lions can do so well… sleep.
New Year's Eve in Dambwa: Loma grooms Kwandi while Rusha grooms Kela