Whenever I watched films about the wildlife in Africa, they always seem to be at the watering hole. Now I know why.

Around 8:00 am we were driving on Hippo Drive next to the lake created by the Mankwe Dam near the center of Pilanesberg. Across the lake, on Letsha Link, we saw about nine cars watching something. A few minutes later we were behind the last car of the line.

There was something dark on the ground. I thought it was a hippo that came out of the water. Then I see the hind legs of a zebra kick into the air while the rest of the body is on the ground. It was immediately clear that a lioness was suffocating a zebra about 100 meters from our car.

Being suffocated by a lion can take over two hours, so I don’t know how long this was going. That kick was the last attempt by the zebra to fight, it did not move after that. Before the zebra died all of the other zebras were close to our car, but on the opposite side of the road. A safe distance from the lioness, but still watching their companion. They stayed until the very last breath and then moved away.

The lioness stayed with the carcass and would occasionally move to get water. Birds came to try and peck at the lions kill, this caused the lion to run and scare them off. And it was exhilarating watching the lion move so quickly. (The details about what the lion did with the carcass get gruesome so I will not tell them here, they will be in at the end with a disclaimer.)

While the lioness was with the zebra carcass there was so much happening. On the lake I saw a crocodile swim by, directly behind the lioness. For a few minutes I thought the crocodile was going to come out of the water and attack the lion and steal the carcass. This didn’t happen, but I have a vivid enough imagination and in my mind this fight was awesome.

Back to reality. We stayed in our spot for about two hours. And in that two hours we saw a couple of ostriches walk up across the lake and take a drink. Ostriches are quite of place when standing next to zebras, wildebeests, warthogs, and impalas. But they were there looking comical.

Farther along the opposite shore of the lake, maybe 500 meters away, we saw a herd of elephants go in to take a bath. With our binoculars we could see the elephants spraying each other down and using their trunk as a snorkel. We could even hear them from that far away. Closer to us there was a large bull elephant walking by himself on the shore of the lake, very far from the herd. A few minutes later we saw him walking along the road we were on. A few more minutes and he was right next to our car. I think he winked at us as he walked by.

As the elephant passed the lion had grown tired and wanted to go into the shade. She walked in the tall grass towards our car, and veered right to sleep under the bush nearest to us. No more than 15 meters away. It was at that point we moved on and drove out of the park.

Two days in Pilanesberg resulted in hundreds of pictures and a first successful game drive. I am excited to see what Kruger National Park has to offer.

For those that stuck it out for the lioness…

Warning: The following is not for the squeamish.

The lioness was laying on the zebra carcass. We couldn’t clearly see what she was doing, but she was staying near the head of the zebra. After a few minutes the lion would get up and try to pull the zebra. The lioness was not strong enough to move the body. So, she got back down and continued working on the body. A few more times she tried to move the carcass with no results. Throughout this endeavor the lioness continued to look to our right. And was always trying to drag the carcass to our right. We assumed that her cubs were nearby.

Giving up on trying to move the carcass the lioness moved to the rear of the zebra. And there she continued to appear to be eating the carcass. After a few minutes of this the lioness appear with a large piece of what appeared to be flesh hanging from her mouth. Maybe she was making the carcass lighter so she could drag it to her cubs. If it was this gruesome I would not have put a disclaimer.

What the lioness held in her mouth, what she pulled from the zebra, had four legs and a head. It was the fetus a zebra. And she put it on the ground and did some more biting. When she came up again it only had four legs. She ran this about fifty meters to a tall bush in the brush and dropped off the fetus, probably for her cubs. Then continued protecting the carcass from scavengers. Nature is cruel sometimes.

David Wade said thanks.

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Judson Duryea

I am on an amazing journey with the love of my life to Johannesburg, South Africa for six months and the Middle East for the following 18 months. Nearly two years abroad! Can't wait to share wonderful moments from all over the world.

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