You don’t always need to go far to see the Big 5 in South Africa.
Guests at Garonga Safari Camp in South Africa were recently treated to a surprise visit by four lions who decided to take an evening stroll through Little Garonga.
A male lion from the Garonga pride pays Little Garonga a visit © Sam Hewitt
On their way out on a last-minute evening game drive, the camp’s guests and guides were met by a male lion and its three female counterparts from the Garonga pride of the Greater Makalali Conservancy who had had an unsuccessful hunt that morning. Making a beeline for the camp, the lions wandered up the concrete path between the suites and onto the deck.
But the guests weren’t the only ones to have a moment of astonishment. Upon glimpsing their reflection in the glass windows of the suites, each lion froze in its tracks and gingerly crept towards the strange lion staring back at them. There was almost an audible sigh of relief from each one when they realised that they were looking at their reflection. Phew!
A male lion strolls through Little Garonga © Sam Hewitt
What were the events leading up to this?
As the guests woke up that morning, they heard the unmistakable bush call of lions roaring within close range to the camp. After quickly drinking the morning’s first cup of coffee, the camp residents went to find the cats. The guides followed the tracks to where the lions were moving through a thicket of red bush willow with the early morning sun speckling their sides.
The guides noted that this was not the typical wandering of lions. The Garonga pride females had hidden their cubs in thick bush and met up with the local male to go on a collective prowl for some breakfast. A pride of lions has an average hunting success rate of about 30% so the guides knew that a kill was not guaranteed but were optimistic as the lions had managed to sneak past a herd of impala, a harem of zebra and a tower of giraffe.
Then the chase was on. The spectators watched with fascination as the lions stalked and encircled an antelope. At one point one of the female lions, who hadn’t joined the hunting pack, comically snuck her head out of a nearby bush to check how long her breakfast would take.
Much to the disappointment of the lions, there were simply too many eyes to outwit and so with energy reserves running low, they were forced to give up the chase. The impala, antelope, zebra and giraffe all lived to see another day as the lions skulked off to face the day with empty stomachs.
The lions from the Garonga Pride went hungry for the day © Sophie Barrett
Is this a security concern?
Safari camps in Africa share their land with the wildlife that calls it home and understand the importance of conserving this relationship for both the animals and guests. As with most safari camps in South Africa, Garonga has a security team that is equipped to handle any of the Big 5 entering the camp without harm being done to either group. They do not interfere with any animals in the reserve, so monitoring is constant to ensure that wildlife visiting the camp don’t enter any of the rooms or encounter any guests or staff.
Since the security team has an excellent understanding of animal behaviour they are able to accurately predict what the movements of the animals are likely to be once they are in the camp. Luckily, animals generally don’t stick around the camp for too long as they become uncomfortable when surrounded by such a concentrated scent of humans.