We heard the lion roaring before we even saw him, lying in the tall grass right next to the waterhole. Just minutes before, Frank had said : “Absolutely nothing out here this morning.”
We got up early just in time for sunrise to make our way to the only waterhole at Piper Pan, right in the middle of nowhere in Central Kalahari, determined to find some Kalahari lions. We had been looking for them for three days in a row but in this vast and endless landscapes, all we could find were lots of fresh tracks. Just before we got to the Kalahari, we were privileged to spend a morning out walking with the San bushmen who grew up in this area and who showed us a lot of their tracking skills and amazing skills to survive in this brutal environment.
It is winter, the lions’ need to drink isn’t as pressing with the colder temperatures as it would normally be. In three days we traveled some 900 kilometres through the harsh desert, passing plenty of gemsbok, yellow mongoose, wildebeest and countless of bat-eared foxes – normally nocturnal but in winter active during the day.
Around deception valley we had a few cars passing us by, but apart from that we spend 48 hours pretty much without seeing any other human soul. What a rare thing to experience and what a privilege to have such a stunning place all to ourselves!
To follow fresh tracks of lions in this godforsaken environment is as exciting as a trip through Africa can get! We were determined to find them and got up early every single morning to catch them during their most active time of day. But it took us three days to finally hear that roar.
It was a quiet roar, desperate, in fact it almost sounded a bit sad. We could see his beautiful black mane in the grass and rolled down the windows in order to see better. As he heard us talking, he got up and started to move, gently, slowly.
It took us a while to see in the early morning light that this lion was nothing more than skin and bones ; his eyes as wild as only lions eyes can be, but sunken into his gaunt face. It must have been a long time since this old lion last mad a proper meal.
We stayed with him as he moved slowly across the pan, every footstep a struggle. It wasn’t necessarily one of those sightings you wish to have on your safari – majestic lions, elegant cheetahs, gigantic elephants – but it was more real than that.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is about as remote as you can get. It is an isolated place that needs some preparation. It is a wild place where not many human beings travel to. It is a harsh place where even lions struggle to survive.
After three days in the Kalahari we pushed through on day four to make our way across the border into Namibia. We are now writing you these lines from Windhoek, where – after a hot shower and a full house breakfast – we will now hit the road to explore fish river canyon and Sossusvlei...