Many people on safari, when asked what they most wish to see, will often say ‘a hunt’ – this because we so rarely get to witness this action playing out in the wild. Lions hunting is a particularly exciting experience, watching the pride set up their target, some flank and others lie in wait while one or two make chase from the front, scaring their prey into the trap. While the takedown itself is not for sensitive viewers, the build-up to the hunt is a thrilling experience. Lions however, are not the most successful hunters, only achieving an 18% success rate.
My family had come to visit me at Mombo during February and the game seemed to be pulling out all the stops for them. Elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and all number of other African creatures had wowed them along the way. Although the game in camp is always exciting at Mombo – you never know what you will wake to find in the plains in front of your room – I was suffering from a terrible case of FOMO (the fear of missing out!) after hearing about the incredible sightings they’d seen on their drive. So one afternoon I decided to join them for a drive.
I had picked the perfect day.
Not far from camp one of the larger prides of lions was on the hunt. They had spotted four lechwe and began to stalk. The hunt is a slow and patient process. The lions need to move into position without letting the lechwe smell, see or hear them. The lions were dead still, only moving when the lechwe turned their backs or when the wind changed direction. Flanks finally in place, the two “catchers” still had to move to the far end of the field… slowly… stealthily… they made their way through the bush. Suddenly the lead lioness stepped out into the open. The lechwe looked up and sounded the alarm but did not move. They stood frozen as the lioness walked towards them. If they did not move soon she would be upon them in seconds…
Eventually the lechwe broke in all directions, one heading straight for the trap… The young male lechwe however moved too soon, changing direction in what can only be described as a handbrake turn and then leapt to the safety of one of the gullies.
The lions had lost, the sun was setting and we returned to camp to relive the day’s adventure around a crackling campfire, celebrated by the melodious singing of the Mombo staff. This was not the first or last hunt I witnessed during my time in the ‘Place of Plenty’, but the opportunity to share these moments with your family makes it all the more special. The story, I am sure, will be told between us at many family gatherings to come.
Written and Photographed by Cayley Christos