Brothers in Harm’s Way

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Guests at Kings Pool recently witnessed incredible scenes from the banks of the Linyanti River – a sighting that showed that context is everything; that a king outside his kingdom can soon get out of his depth; and that fraternal bonds run deep.

Paws for reflection

Their guide, ND, had only seen the two male lions for the first time during the previous week. He believed that they had crossed the river from Namibia, and now it seemed that they were intent on returning. After pausing to drink, the younger of the two brothers in the coalition began to wade into the river.

Swollen after the late summer rains, the Linyanti represented quite an obstacle – but lions in this region have long since shelved cats’ well-known dislike of getting wet. The older male, however, was hesitant to enter the water – he had already spotted a large crocodile cruising towards them. Doubtless the croc was looking for one last substantial meal before entering its winter torpor.

The younger lion forged ahead, seemingly oblivious both to the onrushing reptile and his brother’s low warning growl. Within metres of the far bank, the crocodile struck and the surprised, angry snarling of the ambushed lion could be clearly heard through the splashing as these two alpha predators churned the water into foam.

All goes swimmingly...

Don't slip on the rep(tiles). 

Photographs by Lauren Russell

On land, few creatures will challenge a male lion – much less two of them. In water, however, their antediluvian aggressor had the upper hand, and seemed to be succeeding in dragging the lion to a watery grave.

His older brother had other ideas, however – this was one big cat that was not happy to be the underdog, even if the guests may have been rooting for him. Slashing paws tore watchstraps out of the croc’s scaly skin as the younger lion, released from the jaws of death, popped back to the surface.

That's another fine mess...

Emotional rescue/Do hold your breath. 

Photographs by Lauren Russell

He wasted no time in swimming back to the Botswana bank – his tail between his legs - while confusion still reigned on the far side of the river. Eventually the older male also hauled himself onto dry land - only he was now in Namibia, with a cheated crocodile between him and his brother.

The younger lion bounded out of the water, and shook himself dry with as much dignity as he could muster, while the chastised crocodile – having bitten off more than he could chew (quite literally, given that a crocodile’s dentition is designed only to catch and hold prey, not chop it up) - went in search of an easier meal.

Snap, after all, is a game that’s much more fun when you’re winning. No studies have ever been conducted into crocodiles’ taste for chili, but this one at least didn’t enjoy food that had real bite.

Video footage by Sneha Shah

Out of his depth

It seemed that this is where this remarkable story would end, but as it turned out, the older brother came back for his reward. Within a week, he was back in Botswana, and tracked down his brother in the company of a rather winsome lioness who was in heat.

Big brother pulled rank on the one who almost sank, and his sibling accepted this without demur – you don’t begrudge a love rival when you owe him your survival.

Written by Nick Galpine

Photographs by Lauren Russell and Kings Pool Camp

Click here to see images of this sighting taken by another lucky guest at Kings Pool Camp. 

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By Nick Galpine

The call of the wild – and too many BBC wildlife documentaries – persuaded Nick to abandon the smoky steelworks of his childhood for the clear waters and immense skies of the Okavango Delta. Arriving at Mombo on the same truck as the first reintroduced white rhinos in late 2001, Nick soon realised (as did the rhinos) that this truly was heaven and earth. With the ashes of his return ticket to the UK cooling in a campfire somewhere on Chief’s Island, Nick spent the next several years helping monitor the first wild rhinos in Botswana in a decade. Several years of camp management across the Wilderness portfolio subsequently ensued but by early 2014 it was time to check out a different kind of jungle and Nick relocated to Johannesburg to focus on marketing, and pursue his interest in the manoeuvres of the world’s finest taxi drivers.

More by this contributor


Susan Lock  May 27, 2017

Wow, wow, wow. Thanks so much for sharing this amazing sighting, great pictures and movie - and with a happy ending. What an honour to be able to see this. Linyanti is amazing - cannot wait to go back!

Freddie  May 25, 2017

Nick and Lauen, What a beautiful story. Okavango Delta has remained and will remain my safari dreamland until I visit it. I have only been to Liwonde National Park in Malawi in 2007 but never saw a lion. Great work and Regards