Some game drives are more exciting than others. Sometimes you can wander through the bush and it is just an ordinary day; and sometimes, these ordinary days can produce something quite unusual – you just have to keep sharp and be receptive to an adventure.
We had just arrived at Kalahari Plains Camp after a two-day drive from our home in Victoria Falls. After a delicious tea we ambled along the road around the plain in front of camp. We decided to sit amongst a very large herd of grazing springbok having the best time stuffing their cheeks full of fresh green Kalahari shrubs. The herd was carefree and the nursery was full of frolicking baby springbok. The sound of the wind blowing across the plain reverberated like the shimmering heat that hovered between the hot ground and the sky.
In the distance we caught sight of a large male lion making his way across the plain just in front of camp. He was walking with purpose and marking his territory as he progressed towards the small waterhole. He crouched down onto bended forelegs and rested his broad-barreled chest low down so that he could reach the water. As he lapped, perfect concentric circles formed around his flicking tongue and they rippled to the outer edge of the waterhole. After a very long time of solid drinking, he was finally satiated. He heaved up onto all fours and swaggered off… and I am sure his belly swished with all the water inside it.
He gave a long stretch in downward-facing-dog position and then, without moving his front paws, he rested his seat down, lifted his nose to the wind and roared. He tilted his head to listen for a reply. None was forthcoming. But bouncing along in a carefree way was a jackal couple. We were intrigued as to how close they came to the lion. They danced a bit close and then retreated in a wide circle around him, and then, inquisitively seemed to approach closer and closer each time.
The lion’s tail stood up and swayed like a Cape Cobra ready to strike. The mood of a cat is always revealed by the action of its tail. He kept his head steady, but his irritation was palpable until finally the jackal breached the barrier of acceptable distance and the big lion reacted swiftly with his anger – to which the jackal responded with a fast about-turn and mad dash just far enough away.
I thought that the jackal would have satisfied his curiosity, but this was not a clever jackal. He pushed the boundaries again, resulting in the same response at which point his partner, who was clearly much cleverer than he, departed on other business.
As the light faded, the roar of the Lekhubu male echoed across the Kalahari Plains and bounced off a brilliantly starlit sky to land deeply in our hearts.