We have seen a lot. Elephant, hippo, giraffe and everything in between. We even had a close enough encounter with a black mamba...
Our guests, from Belgium, speak good English, Flemish, and French. My French vocabulary stops with ‘phacochère!” every time a warthog dares move and ‘je t'aime'; the latter used once a long time ago to woe my wife… evidently, it did work!
We set out to find a predator. Anything with carnassial teeth and a bit of a meaty breath would be more than welcome.
Our first order of business was to find a fresh sign or tracks. For that to happen, we had to go all the way up to Kolobe, the little dam on the Eastern fence of Kaingo.
Taking my trusty ‘please-don’t-eat-me stick’, I made my way around the dam. Fresh tracks were everywhere. Elephant, Eland (I made a mental note to track those down next), the minute tracks of a Spotted Genet. An interesting series of marks draws my attention. It looked like an ‘X’ imprinted in the dust. On the other side of this, a few strands of soft hair - a mark that could only have been made by a tail.
“Owl” I replied. “Caught a mouse”. The small tracks, the last it ever made, leads to a tussock of Hairy love-grass. Parting the grass reveals a hole. Home. And safety. Until the owl swooped down on silent wings, talons ready for the kill...
I found the pug marks near the border fence. He was here. Only last night he came from his mountain domain, had a quick drink and then walked off East.
A short jog to the waiting vehicle.
“He is East of us. The area where we must look for him is very rocky. And very beautiful. We christened it Utopia, for it is one of the most perfect examples of undisturbed Waterberg bushveld I know of.”
We crunch, rock, and roll over rocks and boulders. At the bottom of a small kloof, my heart sinks into my boots. His tracks indicate that he left the area, now moving West. Nothing to do but have a cup of coffee and a few rusks...for tracking requires concentration, and we have been at it for two hours already!
As we bump and grind our way upwards with the Land Rover in low range, I contemplate his next move. Kwalata waterhole? Tamboti plains? Both will be good hunting areas. The recent birthing season brought a mass of little zebra, nutbrown baby wildebeest and creches of dainty impala to the area. A lone lion male has no compassion for the young. It is protein. Easy to catch. Easy to eat.
We make our way down the mountain. Near a point called Zandput View, I brake heavily.
The pugmarks are fresh. They lead South. And he is on that loping gait that male lions use when checking their territorial boundary.
We hunker down. Three pairs of eyes scan the bush, the road. Our ears poised to recognize the most minute of alarm calls by bird or beast. We are near the water hole.
A warthog runs towards the vehicle. Clearly distressed, it brakes. Looks around. Snorts and runs off into the bush. We continue.
I am momentarily distracted by the tracks when the guests see him.
Under an African weeping wattle protecting his resent wildebeest kill, lies Simba!