In Botswana’s unfenced national park campsites it is not uncommon to have unannounced wild visitors. This can be fun, exciting and even annoying. Over the years I have had many lions visiting, mostly in the evening or at night. On my last visit to the Mabuasehube Game Reserve however, it was more than just a visit; it was a down-right occupation!
As we left the camp in the dark for an early morning game drive we met two lions on the road coming our way only 50 meters from the camp. They were subadults, one male and one female and were heading straight for our camp. We had one of the few sites with running water and the lions most likely knew the shower was leaking and came for a drink. After a long drink they didn’t move but simply lay down. A passing brown hyena caused some excitement when the lioness got into attack mode ready to charge, but she didn’t.
The best photo opportunity presented itself when the sun was rising through the bush in the far background, creating a nice rim-lighting effect on the young male. I tried an artistic ‘pin-hole camera’ Black & White conversion on this and was quite charmed by the result. See both the colour and B&W version of this image below.
As the sun climbed higher, the lions, predictable as they are, looked for shade and we decided to continue our game drive. Hours later when we arrived back in camp brother and sister were still there lying underneath the A-frame in the perfect shade; simply marvellous, so now what? We tried to chase them off, but to no avail, the occupiers were the winners and we fled to the next campsite spending the rest of the day trying to shelter from the 42 degree Celcius heat under the A-frame, just like the lions.
When in the late afternoon the light became more forgiving we checked and found the occupiers still there being lazy. Their position and laziness did provide some opportunities for extremely low-angle shots from underneath my vehicle. The lazy male in particular was very curious about what was under the car and gave me some inquisitive looks, but never moved an inch. So, we soon got bored and frustrated with them, moreover since the light was getting really good and a marvellous cloudy sky was developing behind us. We decided to shoot the landscape instead.
We chose a spot next to the campsite overlooking the pan, a mere 50 meters or so away from the lazy occupiers. The exquisite sky and gorgeous light occupied us completely. Then, as I turned around, I looked directly at the male lion standing there, looking at me, some 20-25 m away. This gave me a bit of a fright; not the male as such, but knowing the female must be around somewhere too! We sped to the (nearby) car, a movement that made the male hurry away. It was then that I noticed the female moving much closer to us. Only later I was wondering if perhaps the female was in the last images I took. I was actually trying a vertical panoramic from several images which I intended to stitch together. Looking at my files I could see the lioness there looking at me and I did not even see her through the viewfinder! Since I was shooting at a very wide focal length 16mm she actually looks far, but the actual distance was a mere 15 meters. Yet another reminder that I must keep checking around me; I always forget despite my wife telling me this all the time .
Spot the lioness…