We left Masuma dam and its elephant parade and got to Main Camp, only to discover that our lodge was still occupied by the previous guests from South Africa. It seems that the latter rule in Zimbabwe and they appear to show little respect for the local regulations and arrangements. After a three-hour wait, we finally managed to move into our lodge and settled down with the apologies of the Park manager but not from the interlopers!
We enjoyed the area, particularly the outstanding Nyamandlovu pan and viewing platform that, as usual, was very popular with the elephants. However, as we had just enjoyed a private elephant act, we did not spend much time at the pan and instead looked for other forms of excitement.
During one of our game drives a helpful fellow traveller proudly informed us that there was a lion pride on the prowl near the Dom pan nearby. Finding them did not take long (all credit to my wife, again!) and we watched them trying to see how many they were. After a while counting heads, legs and tails we concluded that they were one adult male, two younger males, three females and two cubs.
Although it was mid morning they were alert and clearly looking for prey. They moved towards Nyamandlovu pan and positioned themselves at a vantage point that enabled them to see the pan and, more interestingly, a small herd of wildebeest grazing in the dry grasslands, surrounding the pan. The lions kept a keen eye on potential prey but they seemed to ignore the wildebeest, to our surprise, as they would have been the obvious target.
As we waited, elephants walked in the background ignoring the lions and vice versa. Only when a couple of young adult female elephants, unaware of the lions’ presence, walked straight at them, was there a sign of fear when they quickly bolted and ran tail up while the lions stood up, preparing for a possible withdrawal. It seemed to us that the lions were not keen on the wildebeest but attentively watching something else that we could not see.
Suddenly one lioness stood up and started to walk with the clear “hunting gaze”: keeping her neck stretched straight out in line with her back and her head always leveled, despite walking over irregular terrain.
While watching her we lost sight of the other two and we realized that a hunt was on although we still did not see the prospective victim! We prepared ourselves for action and suddenly a couple of warthogs came running across the field, moving very fast and away from the visible lioness.
She went for them running at full speed for a short distance but quickly gave up the chase, as the warthogs at full speed were too much for her. While the warthogs disappeared, two more heads popped up in the grass in front of us. Something had failed in the ambush! Perhaps the warthogs smelled the lionesses or, as they looked young, they did not have the necessary skills to shut the trap. Whatever the reason for the failure the exercise proved to be too much and the females went back to the group and proceeded to do what lions do best: rest and sleep! We left them there hoping to find them again later.
They were still there in the afternoon and, only when the day cooled down did they move into the bush where we lost them. Luckily they passed very close to us and we managed to take a few good pictures before they disappeared.