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Selinda/Kwando/Zibalianja: full report 3

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Day eight (Zib). Afternoon drive. We find a Selinda lioness and one of the pride's new suitors mating, near the southern end of Zib lagoon. Their late afternoon activity is keeping the hippos from leaving the water. It's frustrating for us, too. The pair do it every eight minutes. We line up the vehicle each time, hoping to get good front-on shots. Second-best would be side on. Each time, the lioness turns away from us and we see graphic rear-end scenery. Maybe a couple of shots are OK.

Day nine (Zib). We find the wild dog pack has moved den. The pups are very close to accompanying the pack on the hunt, and the first den is so full of parasites that moving house is essential. But they've replaced the photogenic den with one in nondescript flat grassy, scrubby terrain, not far from either the old den or Selinda Reserve's Central Management Unit.. There's only one good vantage point: that's looking straight down from the vehicle into the old aardvark hole which the dogs have occupied. We photograph some of the pups looking up at us from the entrance. Then, a different pair of lions mating, in the bowling green area. They give us better shots.

Back at the spillway, where most of the elephants gather each afternoon, we see another male lion in the water with a freshly killed roan. One of the lionesses has brought this antelope down, but the male (one of a coalition of four which looks like taking over this pride) has stolen the kill. We correctly decide it's a bull roan which we saw a few days earlier with a broken foreleg and which we predicted had a pretty dim future. We watch a confrontation between the lion and three lionesses who try to get their share of the kill. When he leaves the carcass briefly, they think it's their turn, go up to him and give him lots of loving nuzzles, then turn towards the roan...and bang! he swipes furiously at them and drives them off. The lion hangs on to this meal for at least the next 48 hours while elephants, wild dog and antelopes come by to drink from the spillway in his full view. The lionesses, meanwhile, go off (in disgust, if they were human) and find themselves a buffalo not far away. We saw them a day or so later with the remains of their kill while 'Prince Charming' lay bloated next to his.

On our return to Zib for dinner, the manager, who was guiding other clients, radioed to say a young leopard was on the prowl a couple of kilometres past the camp, so we hurried there and succeeded in photographing the cat drinking from an extension of the lagoon.

Day 10 (Zib). Wild dogs on the hunt, a sizeable impala herd drinking from the spillway, then some magic shots of giraffe drinking...three long, curved necks reaching to the water in unison; a really closeup portrait of a hyena patiently waiting for the wild dogs to bring home some bacon near the spillway; a full-face of 'Prince Charming' still by his lionesses' kill; elephants in the golden late afternoon sunlight, drinking within sight of the lion; and again, the wild dogs, standing and staring suspiciously in the dusk at where the lion lay with the roan.

This day finished with some lovely closeups of a white-faced owl perched high in a thornbush by the trail on our return to Zib in the dark.

Day 11 (Zib). Again we see lions mating, this time on the edge of Duma Tau territory, and this session gives us some of our better shots. It's one of the same males as before, and one of the same females, but we think they've swapped partners. And they are obviously very, very close to the end of their endurance.

In a thread which was posted while we were on safari, there was mention of guides trespassing into other concessions. What I and my companions have heard backs up Bwana Mitch's account of this. Some Duma Tau guides are notorious for bending the rules in this regard, intruding beyond reason, whereas Selinda/Zib and Kwando guides behave themselves and abide by an agreement between concession holders. It is not forbidden to cross a boundary to look at something, but you do not stray too far, and you give way if a vehicle from the concession holder arrives. I recall this happening a year ago in Selinda's territory near the Kwando boundary. We were watching the three cheetah brothers, and a couple of Kwando vehicles came in and shared the sighting with our blessing. But our vehicles took precedence. A similar thing happened on the Duma Tau boundary. We were watching a male lion just inside Duma Tau territory, when one of their vehicles arrived and informed us of a cheetah with her cubs resting under a bush nearby. We left them to the lion, took a quick look at the cheetahs, then departed.

Day 12 (Zib). The last game drive...a final visit to the wild dogs and their den, and we again find the mother cheetah with her two adolescent cubs, hunting. She is all seriousness, the youngsters are a mixture of student concentration and playfulness...they are easily distracted and chase each other while mother looks for a kill. We get a flat tyre while following them, and one of the youngsters sits and looks curiously back at us while we stand around the vehicle. When I aim my camera at the cub, it turns tail, and I stop so I won't alarm the cats.

That's about it. I may have forgotten a few things which didn't feature in our photos, but it's a pretty comprehensive summary of our safari. I note with a bit of a chuckle that I was inconsistent in one respect...declaring that you never pass up a game drive, then revealing that we did just that the very next day. But Y has arthritis and is under constant medication, and deserved a break after such a long day on the trail. Her tolerance for pain and discomfort and her ability to handle a heavy camera in a jolting vehicle on safari have to be seen to be believed.


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