It was early June in Zambia’s South Luangwa National park and we had just opened camp. The first set of guests were enjoying excellent sightings. Lion and leopard were in abundance as were all the other general game species that the area has to offer.
Despite all the fantastic sightings the opening few days of the season had provided, there was still a sense of anticipation amongst us guides. This was down to the fact that the famous Hollywood pride had yet to be seen. The Hollywood pride is known the world over for their countless appearances on wildlife documentaries that are set with in the South Luangwa.
The reason for their fame and why they are on the wish list of any film crew that come to the area is down to the two males that hail over the pride. Both huge specimens with full manes, are the epitome of what male lions should look like.
Some special guests were due to arrive in camp in the form of my parents, who had made the journey out from the UK to visit. After a quick catch-up we climbed onto the game viewer and set out on an afternoon game drive.
Not long into the game drive we came to one of the many dry lagoons that mark the old course of the Luangwa river, due to their extremely fertile alluvial soil, these ox-bow lakes attract game from far and wide making them the perfect place to search for the many big cats of the area.
No sooner had we dropped down into the lagoon we noticed the distinct golden shape of sleeping lions under a cluster of ebony trees. Due to the area that we were in, this could only mean one thing. Yes, The Hollywood pride had finally decided to grace us with their presence.
As well as the two charismatic males, there were a number of new additions to the pride who had been born during the rains. These youngsters were doing their best to make a nuisance of themselves with the adult members of the pride. Making for some excellent viewing and photographic opportunities.
After spending the rest of the afternoon with them, we decided to go for a quick sundowner close by on the banks of the Luangwa. After a quick break, we returned to the pride who were just starting to wake up and begin the grooming and greeting ritual that takes place before the pride decides to move.
One of the females was the first to make the decision to move off, and gradually the rest of the pride began to follow. All except the cubs who were under strict instructions to remind behind. A clear indication of the prides intention. They were on the lookout for something to eat.
The pride started to make their way in the direction of where we had just enjoyed our sundowners. They had spotted a herd of Puku who had gathered in great numbers on the open grassy plain adjoining the river.
We watched from a respectful distance as not give any advantage to either predator or prey. By the moonlight we could make out the ghostly figures of two lionesses beginning to flank the herd while the rest of the pride waited in the shadows.
We sat there in silence as the scene unfolded in front of us, perched on the edge of our seats, not moving, not breathing, totally transfixed on the moonlit shadows tactically positioning themselves to launch an ambush.
The silence was suddenly broken by the high-pitched whistle of a Puku alarm call, followed by the tremble of hooves as the herd moved off, away from the pride. The lions who were in waiting all sat up and everyone in the vehicle exhaled in unison and the tension of the hunt was broken.
As we began to turn to each other and engage in conversation, we heard a loud groan coming from the darkness. The Spot light swung around to illuminate a Hippo with two lionesses riding on her back disappearing into the night. The rest of the pride had obviously heard the distress calls of the hippo and jumped to attention and raced in the direction from where the sound was coming.
To our sheer amazement, we quickly realised that the hippo who had disappeared in into the darkness was not alone. She had been accompanied by her younger offspring as they headed away from the river on their nightly feed.
What followed was the biggest demonstration of power and strength that I have witnessed, from both predators and prey.
Words cannot do it justice so I will let my images and footage taken by my Dad do all the talking.
Note: The following video and images are very graphic in nature and shows the RAW side of Africa.
Cheers for now.
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