It was on the evening drive when we found the pride of lions with the little cubs that we also found Nathan Pilcher and Carl Ruysenaar who have been in Hwange for nearly two months now filming lions. Mike knows Nathan well as they had spent time recording the release of the white-eye birds on North Island in the Seychelles in 2007. We wanted to catch up with the guys and find out what footage they had managed to collect during their stay here.
On one afternoon we all decided to get together to film and photograph elephants wallowing at the new mud wallow at Davisson’s Camp. Great plan, the only problem is no-one bothered to tell the elephants. So we had tea instead and chatted about what these guys have been up to.
Nathan has been with Aquavision for over six years now so he has had a lot of exposure and experience in wildlife filming. Wilderness and Aquavision have enjoyed a wonderful working relationship for many, many years now. Nathan’s brief was to film lion and elephant interaction during the dry season. This was based on the fact that there was a huge pride of lions in the concession last year, but now that pride has unbundled into smaller prides and they no longer are the monopoly of the area.
It is quite tricky to have a brief or plan in your mind as to what story you want to tell in terms of wildlife, because usually what happens is that another story develops instead of the one you want to tell. Just like animals and raising teenagers: the way you think it is going to work out doesn’t always go that way. C’est la vie.
There is a pan to the south west of Davisson’s called Ngamo. Mike absolutely loves this area. It is almost like a world of its own because it has different vegetation and in the dry season it looks flat and desolate. You can see the heat haze rising from the sandy earth off this flat moon-scape pan that stretches almost more than five km’s from one side to the other. In the middle there is a windmill that looks like a single lonely tinsel decoration on a Christmas tree as it glistens in the heat and reflection of the sun.
It is here that Nathan and Carl discovered a new story. A lone male cheetah who is a unique and cheeky character. It appears he fights way above his weight. They filmed him trying to take down a waterbuck – this is amazing. Normally cheetah would form a coalition to take on such a large antelope, but not this guy. And while this was all going on, elephant and baboon were going about their normal business of getting to the water across this vast pan before moving on to search for feed in this drying landscape. A heady capture for wildlife filming for sure.
Apparently, this cheeky cheetah is not scared to take on kudu and scoffs at impala – a mere snack not worth the energy to take down! He is a big boy and Mike and I had the great pleasure of seeing him at Ngamo. We photographed him taking a sundowner at one of the pools there…it was pure magic to see.
And now back to the brief of the lions. The interaction that Nathan and Carl are hoping for is not apparent as yet, but there is another month of dry season so we will wait and see. In the meantime, the guys are up early and out late. Putting in a fourteen hour day in this magical office is what a lot of people dream about. It is hard work; physically and mentally. There is a lot of waiting and a lot of nothing. But when something magical happens – what a life!