The good rains in December and January have produced the most luscious green grass. There is a perception amongst some that the long grasses of February make for poor game viewing, but this month has dispelled the myth. Just in the last few days, and within a kilometre of camp, we’ve borne witness to our three most commonly-seen leopards together on a kill, a pack of 16 wild dogs on the old airstrip playing like a pack of Labradors in the rain puddles, and six lion fighting with hyaena. There’s always something to see at Seba!
It’s also a good lesson in guiding – sometimes it’s not so much “looking” for game, as listening for and tracking it. It was 6am and I awoke to the unmistakable sound of excited hyaena. I listened for a while from camp, and then I said to Hailey: “It’s lion versus hyaena, I’m sure. I’m going to find them.”
I set off heading north, stopping every few minutes to orientate myself with the direction of the racket. Soon I found them – two lionesses and their four one-year-old cubs had killed a big male kudu and were trying to feed. Hyaenas were swooping in on the kill, cackling and whooping almost constantly, their noisy clamour attracting more hyaenas by the minute. Their sound was only matched by the deep growls of the lions. The audio was deafening. One by one, the hyaenas would dart in and try to snatch a piece of meat, only to be charged by one of the lionesses.
Eventually the hyaenas outnumbered the lions almost three to one. Six hyaenas started pulling at the opposite side of the carcass to where the lions lay. A lioness growled at them, but her warning went unheeded. She charged and swatted at one of the hyaenas but this time they did not retreat. As she swung off balance, the other hyaenas attacked her, biting her all over her body, one snapping shut on the end of her tail. She managed to squirm free and bolted, six or seven hyaenas in hot pursuit. With their mother having run for her life, the cubs soon surrendered the kill, and the hyaenas wasted no time in completely swarming over and devouring it. The spectacle was awesome! Although I’m sure the lions would disagree, hyaenas play an important role in the ecosystem as predators and scavengers, and they certainly don’t let anything go to waste.
February also gives us a chance to show off some soccer skills. Many tight-fought battles have been played against our closest rivals, Abu Camp, accompanied by hundreds – if not thousands – of collared pratincoles! The sight of them flying in unison against the African summer sunset, thunderstorm in tow, is just as beautiful as some of the silky skills witnessed on the playing field. So whether it’s a game of soccer or a pack of wild dogs, as our guide Speedy says: “You can’t always expect the game to come to you... sometimes you just have to look for it.”
Newsletter by Tim