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The Something New of "Something Old, Something New"


hannahcat

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Atravelynn

Your sunrise deck shot is a winner. Glad you saw the lechwe!

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This is a continuation of the trip report started in the South Africa forum. To sum up: my mom and I traveled to South Africa and stayed at Dulini Lodge, where I had stayed once before. After a quick

Our final sighting for that morning's game drive was the show-stopper: a gorgeous older female leopard, about eleven or twelve years old. She looked a little thin to me, but otherwise in good health,

This is probably my one less-than-squeal moment, and I feel a little silly writing about it. Maybe my problem is that I'm like a little duckling, and I have imprinted on a certain set of trackers/rang

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madaboutcheetah

@@hannahcat - I read an article online (can't remember where) and it indicated a hot air balloon trip at Vumbura. Must be something new - wonder if you can add more info? Thanks....

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Thanks @@Neeners815!

 

@@Atravelynn, thanks for your comment -- I really loved the red lechwe though I never did see them doing that classic thing of leaping through the water. Their colors and form are just beautiful to me. Here's an extra red lechwe picture -- not as dramatic as the others, but still nice I think.

 

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@@madaboutcheetah, I'm afraid I can't be very helpful to you: either they started hot air ballooning after we left, or we didn't seem like very good hot air balloon candidates. Either way, no one mentioned the option to us. It does seem like it would be a lovely place to do it though, particularly in the dramatic flooding/flooded seasons.

 

 

 

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@madaboutcheetah They do have ballooning at both Vumbura Plains and Little Vumbura from April-Sept- according to what I read, it is at extra cost so it is not free like the ones in Kafue

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  • 2 weeks later...

Our final sighting for that morning's game drive was the show-stopper: a gorgeous older female leopard, about eleven or twelve years old. She looked a little thin to me, but otherwise in good health, and she led us on a merry chase through a field, then into some bush, then back into the open again, when she appeared to start hunting through the water. That was my absolute dream to see a cat in water, and I can't believe it really happened! We left her then to conduct her hunt in peace (actually, for some time, our guide had been asking if we wanted to leave the leopard to get a cup of tea -- another way that I think we just didn't mesh that well, since of course I didn't want to leave the leopard for tea! But I was happy to leave the leopard when she was settling down for a hunt, as any movement of ours through that watery area would no doubt be as noisy and graceless as a herd of hippos trying to dance the can-can.)

 

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This was where, after walking quite a while through fields -- all of which were beginning to flood -- and then through some brush -- which had little streams running through it already -- the leopard decided that the only water that would do would be the water that had oozed up in the track left by our vehicles' tires. Maybe it was the freshest water? I have no idea why she picked it, and honestly it was a little awkward to get pictures of her, but it was wonderful just to be near her as she lap-lap-laped so close to us.

 

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And here she is, heading through the water. I can't believe I got to see this! A cat, really going off to hunt in water! Squee, indeed.

 

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That evening was the evening we decided to take the morkoro ride. For those who haven't done it, getting into a mokoro is a lot like getting into a very extended kayak. It's very low in the water, and you have one of those L-shaped pads that, once you sit on one part, provides support for your back. You sit with your legs straight out in front of you, and each tourist has their own boat and "poler," or guide. The experience reminded me quite a bit of being punted along the River Cam in Cambridge, England, and I wondered aloud if anyone else had remarked on the similarity to the polers. They claimed that they had never heard of punting, which really surprised me -- to me, the two methods of propelling the boat are remarkably similar. Maybe I didn't pronounce punting correctly? Here's what it looked like from my perspective:

 

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I spent the first half of the ride convinced I was going to tip the boat if I moved a muscle, but over time I realized that, as long as I didn't start disco dancing, the boat was really quite stable. I loved my guide, Tom, who was really infinitely patient with me. I had said at the beginning that I was interested in seeing the frogs that, at night, formed a chorus of delicate clinking and chirpings in the Delta. However, I didn't have a macro lens or a converter for my rental telephoto lens, so it took me quite a while to get each frog and spider in focus. Tom may have wanted to tip the boat over and throw me out by the end, but if so, he didn't show it at all, instead patiently adjusting the boat and explaining the different markings and habits of the micro fauna.

 

This was a spider that builds its web between several reeds in the Delta. We were going through a well-worn morkoro path -- so don't get the impression that you'll be fighting off spiders at every turn if you're thinking of doing this and haven't before -- and we were also avoiding the hippo paths -- but in between the paths, these spiders were everywhere. In fact, that's what makes them unique -- unlike most spiders, which are solitary, this spider is in the "community spider" family (Cyrtophora citricola, I think), that occurs in places with plentiful prey. I thought the dots on its belly were very attractive, though I know others might not love it.

 

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This is an Angolan Reed Frog, which is similar between both sexes, and has a gorgeous chirrup, like wine glasses clinking.

 

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And these are the Long Reed Frogs -- the colorful one is the male, the camouflaged one is the female.

 

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In no time at all, it seemed, we were at our destination: a little island where we were having sundowners and a little natural history lesson. The beauty of the place, the isolation, no doubt the gin & tonic -- it all finally overcame me then, and I let go of any last tension I was hanging on to, and just felt like what I was, the luckiest person in the world right then. Even now, looking at the pictures, I almost can't believe I'm the person who got to do this marvelous thing.

 

After being given our drinks, we were shown a few features of the island, including this sharp plant, called "mother-in-law's tongue." (I read a theory recently that the spread of humans was essentially caused by in-laws, and successive generations wanting a little space from them. :rolleyes: )

 

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There was a skull of what had been an enormous elephant on the island, and our guides showed it to us, pointing out the wear on the molars. Apparently, some old elephants starve to death in old age, as their molars simply get too ground down to extract nutrition from their food.

 

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Finally, it was time to head back for dinner and, later, an excellent lecture by Russell, one of the long-term guides there who was "out of commission" from guiding due to a back injury. Instead, he had put together a series of evening lectures on the state of the rhino, the ecology and geology of Botswana, and probably other subjects as well. I highly recommend these if you go.

 

Here is mom before getting back in the mokoros.

 

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With one last glance, off we set. I was reminded of that F. Scott Fitzgerald quotation, but in a nice way, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

 

 

 

 

 

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Great stuff @@hannahcat and welcome back.

The Mokoro rides are fantastic - cool frog pics too.

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Neeners815

Wonderful! Did you ever hear any hippos when you were out? Or see any crocodiles?

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michael-ibk

Really like the Frog pictures - their voices were our night time serenade in Botwana´s Kwando camp, but I never actually saw one. :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
hannahcat

Thanks @@Neeners815! I did not see hippos or crocs on the mokoro ride, though I did see them when we were in the motorboat going from the island to the shore and on our drives. I think they're very careful to take the mokoro along a well-worn but narrow path -- one that's too narrow for hippos to easily get through. You are warned not to suddenly reach out of the boat to touch something, though if you ask your poler for permission, he can see what's going on underwater (the water's very clear, and he has a much better perspective), and he'll usually OK it. :D Enjoy your ride!

 

@@michael-ibk, thanks! I really liked the frogs too. I kinda wish I had gotten to spend even more time with them -- they're just so pretty. :wub:

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hannahcat

One thing I should note before I start to wind-up the visit to Little Vumbra is the elephants. There were two “resident” elephants on Little Vumbra’s island: Angry Bob and another elephant, whose name so paled beside Angry Bob’s that I’m currently failing to remember it.

 

Being so close to elephants was one of the selling points of the camp for me — when else might I have elephants appearing at the brunch table to sneak a few grapes from the buffet? I had not accounted for two things, however: one, that going to the bathroom and looking up, only to find a large elephant eye, not two feet away and only separated by the thin netting that makes up a “window” in a Little Vum tent, is a little startling. Even though I knew, intellectually, that it was highly unlikely anything bad was going to happen (like the elephant attacking the tent), there are few times in my life when I remember feeling more small, and more vulnerable.

 

The second thing I didn’t expect was how large and invulnerable my mom felt in the presence of elephants. Nothing I said could shake her belief that elephants were lovely, friendly creatures who would never do her any harm, much like the residents of the Babar books. Shortly after the toilet incident, for instance, we were due in the lodge for the morkoro ride, but the elephant who had been looking in my window was now directly outside my front door. (We had a divided tent, and each side had its own front door.) I wanted to wait in our tent until someone noticed our absence and came to find out what had happened, but mom was determined not to be late to the lodge.

 

Finally, I realized she was either leaving with me or without me, so I proposed that we leave by her front door and go very, very slowly, not making any sudden movements. Sure! she said — then confidently marched out the door and past the elephant, causing me to silently compose in my head what I would say to my brother when I called to tell him our mother had been trampled to death by an elephant. Fortunately, in this case, the elephant was much more interested in his meal than in us — though when we got to the lodge, a travel agent who was also staying there said that she had seen us exiting the room and had wondered if it was possible that we had not seen the elephant — otherwise, why in the world did we do that?

 

No matter what was said, though, mom continued to feel supernaturally comfortable around elephants. When we saw Angry Bob in camp, she wanted to stand close to him for pictures. When we went to Chitabe and some new planks in the boardwalk were pointed out to her — they were evidence of an elephant who had gotten tired of walking around the tents on the way to his favorite fruits, and so instead just walked through the solid wooden walkway that linked the tents to the lodge — that, too, did not seem to dent her enthusiasm. It was only when, at Chitabe, she asked a ranger why people seemed so afraid of elephants, and the ranger swung round, looked her in the eye, and said, “because elephants. kill. people.” that she finally understood. I could have cried with relief. Nevertheless, mom’s ease with the elephants did spark some great photographic opportunities.

 

Mom and me with (I think) Angry Bob at Little Vumbra:

 

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Angry Bob (again, I think) in camp:

 

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Mom with an elephant at Chitabe:

 

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hannahcat

Our last drive in Little Vumbra was a stunner, full of sunrise rituals and little surprises. We started with these lovely wattled cranes:

 

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And then we saw this kudu, who seemed to pose in the morning sun:

 

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This is one of my favorite pictures of the whole trip, three reedbucks mostly hidden in the grass, with the morning mist rising around them. I feel like you get a good sense here of how these quiet creatures survive in a predator-filled night.

 

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We were able to catch this LBR doing some morning voice exercises:

 

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As well as this baboon, whom we clearly interrupted in her grooming. Sorry about that, Ms. Baboon!

 

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I loved getting some up-close time with this goth of the bird world, the baleteur eagle.

 

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As well as with this hammerkop:

 

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Heading into a slightly different landscape, we saw this dazzle of zebra enjoying breakfast.

 

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And in another landscape still, we saw this giraffe skeleton perfectly framed by the grass. It reminded me of the buffalo skull we had seen at Dulini, near the almost-dry-pond, that was a marker of the Kruger area's deep drought, but at least as far as I understand it, Botswana was not suffering the same kind of drought, they were just waiting for the annual flood to come in.

 

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After all this, we started to head towards the airstrip, well satisfied with our drive — when suddenly, a call came in: lions had been seen, about 10 minutes from us and about 20 minutes from the airstrip. We had 30 minutes before our flight. Our guide asked us if we were OK with cutting it close, and we said “yes!” When we arrived, we found two lions in the shade, a mother and her teenaged son (you can see his scraggly mane emerging, just like the mustache of a 14-year-old boy). Though they were resting, they weren’t flat cats — they were very loving and adoring towards each other. I wish they hadn’t been in the shade — otherwise, they would be great for making a set of homemade mothers' day greeting cards. In fact, maybe I'll still do that, just for my mom. :)

 

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And then, after five minutes of continuous shooting and starting our race to the airport, we suddenly spotted a sable! We only had time to slow down for a few quick “memory shots” but it was wonderful seeing such a glamorous animal, even very quickly.

 

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When we got to the airstrip, we were exactly on time — but still, our pilot had been waiting for us and was more than a little grumpy. It all worked out, though, as having no time meant we had no time to think about being practically tossed with our luggage into the smallest plane of the trip. As I’ve written before, I sat in the co-pilot’s seat and my mom sat behind us — there were no other seats. I was terrified of tipping the plane over, but fortunately, and despite an errant kudu’s best efforts, the plane landed easily in Chitabe.

 

Here's a shot of mom in the back of the plane:

 

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And a shot of all the plane controls I was sure I was going to accidentally hit:

 

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And a few arial shots:

 

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Kitsafari

@@hannahcat your mum is a super trooper!

 

And so nice of the lions and the sable to come out to say goodbye.

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Some very nice pics in the report @@hannahcat. Well done.

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hannahcat

Thanks, @@Kitsafari, @@Geoff, and @@Hads!

 

@@Kitsafari and @@Hads, my mom is indeed a trooper. :) She's a trooper who sometimes terrifies me, but definitely a trooper. :D Thanks for your kind comments -- I'll be sure to pass them on.

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hannahcat

Chitabe, I have heard, is called the “poor man’s” Mombo: it has most of the wildlife with fewer lux flourishes. First of all, as anyone who has checked out the prices on these things knows, for better or for worse, no one who is remotely close to actually being poor stays at any of these camps. Second, I can’t speak to comparisons, but I can certainly attest that the game at Chitabe is magnificent and the camp is both luxurious and warm.

 

If my mom were writing this with me, however, I’m sure she would want me to note that the Little Vum set-up had been better for us as mother and daughter — they had given us the “family tent,” which meant we essentially had separate rooms and separate bathrooms, with a divider in the middle of the very large tent that we could open in the middle of the day and close at night for privacy.

 

At Chitabe, there were no family tents and the bathroom was the least private of the trip — it was screened off but lacked real doors. If you’re thinking of going to Chitabe with someone who is not your romantic partner, therefore, you might want to consider other camps in the area — even for us, as a very close mother and daughter, it was a bit much.

 

After landing, Chitabe was a 30 minute ride away. Though our driver was not to become our usual guide, he was quite good at spotting wildlife, including this Verreaux’s eagle-owl hidden behind the branches of a tree.

 

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However, this drive raised one concern for me: I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I have an auto-immune condition similar to Lupus. This makes me very sensitive to the sun — so sensitive that, about 15 minutes into this ride, every part of my skin not covered in sun-protective clothing (which is what I generally wear on safari) I began to break out in a rash. Of course, this ride was not in the usual safari hours of dawn and dusk, when the sunlight is much less harsh, but it was also clear that Chitabe’s game was so good in part because there was very little shade — and that that very fact could potentially spell real trouble for me.

 

Fortunately, all of the people we ended up sharing a game drive vehicle with during our time at Chitabe (including several charming honeymoon couples) were absolutely lovely, and agreed to keep the roof up on the vehicle, even though it did limit their photographic opportunities to some extent. If any of you are reading this, or will read this in the future (and I did tell everyone I met about SafariTalk if they didn’t know about it already): THANK YOU! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. You really made it possible for me to finish the safari in good health.

 

OK, enough talking: the next post will have more photos, I promise.

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Great stuff. The lions and the sable, what a grande finale to Vumbura.

I like the opening to Chitabe, it's description relative to other places. 'A poor man's Mombo', hah. Looking forward to pics!

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hannahcat

I did find myself missing the rapport of having both a tracker and a ranger in Botswana. When it works, this partnership does seem to yield great sightings as well as, in quieter moments, good story-telling. I did notice that &Beyond uses trackers — on several occasions, we saw vehicles from their Selina camp, which traverses the same region as does Chitabe. In general, however, it seems that Botswana camps have rangers only.

 

After just one game drive, however, I could understand why the tracker wasn’t really necessary: in a game area this rich, you only had to meander out the front drive to start seeing wildlife. In our case, we started with giraffes.

 

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Next, we saw an LBR, a number of little bee eaters, hippos, and even a monitor lizard. (The lizard reminded me of a story I heard from Fred about a couple staying in a very fancy lodge — not Dulini -- that kept calling the main lodge one night about a lizard that was in their room. Thinking they meant a skink or other smallish creature, the lodge kept telling them that they were fine, just go to sleep, etc. It was only when someone came by the next day to pick the couple up for their game drive, only to find that the tourists had been awake all night trying to defend themselves from an enormous hissing monitor lizard, that the lodge realized that a terrible, terrible mistake they had made. Apparently, they did not have to pay for their time at the lodge.)

 

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Finally, and most spectacularly, we saw lions. These were not the warthog-gorged lions of Dulini, nor were they the affectionate, sweetheart lions of Little Vumbra. Instead, these lions with hunting on the brain, and we had the great good fortune of seeing them every day, often multiple times a day In fact, I began to feel like we were filming the “Big Cat Diary.”

 

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One pair of lion sisters in particular we saw every day, spending so much time with them that I felt I got to know them and their personalities, at least a little. I can’t pick a favorite part of the safari — and what couple possibly compete with seeing “my” leopard mother and cub again? — but if I had to pick a second favorite, getting inside the day-to-day lives of these lion sisters might have to be it.

 

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On that first evening, we watched the beginnings of a lion hunt, but the light was quickly fading, and we eventually had to leave. We did hear on the radio, though, that the kudu that the lions were tracking had smelled them and run.

 

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I was also very lucky to snap this silhouette of a stork coming in for a landing -- I was hoping to try a silhouette since I've seen so many gorgeous ones on SafariTalk.

 

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Our euphemistic “sundowners” — now in the total darkness — were served by a pond, with all the other Chitabe vehicles also present. One of the rangers tried to show us the nest of the blacksmith lapwing, since there was one nesting directly on the ground close to the pond. However, the blacksmith lapwing was so adamant that no one come within ten feet of her nest — she came at us squawking and protesting — that we backed off and left her to her mothering.

 

To top it all off, we saw a porcupine on the way home, and two honey badgers too! I got a pic of the porcupine, but not of the honey badgers.

 

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All in all, a pretty spectacular way to start our time at our last safari lodge.

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hannahcat

Thanks, @@Big_Dog! Yeah, the "poor man" comment is pretty insane. I swear I heard and read several references like that though.

 

Also, I realized I didn't emphasize this enough: there was a definite squee for the porcupine and honey badgers! I was really, really hoping to see both, and I couldn't believe that I saw them on the first night. :wub:

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  • 2 weeks later...
hannahcat

Thanks so much, @@Neeners815! Sorry it's taking me forever. You must be leaving soon, right?

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hannahcat

Do you ever have those moments when you’re looking through your photos and you think, “hot damn! I can’t believe I took these photos!”

 

For me, these lion sisters do that every time. I know you just saw pictures from this series — but hot damn! There’s just something I can’t resist in her look — it’s so frank and honest.

 

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She’s just so convinced that this is a lion world, and I’m in it as something that benefits or hinders lions, or maybe something that’s neutral to lions — but without doubt, she is the central character to her story.

 

I suppose all animals think this. It’s clear when you watch birds that birds think this is a bird world, and squirrels think this is a squirrel world. We, of course, think it’s a human world. But there’s just something so convincing in the way she looks at the lens — she about has me convinced that she’s right, and it’s a lion world after all.

 

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hannahcat

The next morning, we quickly came across the male lions of the pride — two brothers — and it was nice to know that we weren’t the only ones suffering from a little bed head that morning.

 

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Trying to recover his pride:

 

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But there was a problem. Obviously, we couldn’t know what had transpired the night before, but whatever it was, it ended up with one skinny lion:

 

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And one lion who looked like this:

 

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Meanwhile, far across the field, but downwind from the male lions, we spotted the lion sisters — and they had killed a warthog. They were eating like crazy, clearly terrified that their male counterparts would smell the carcass any second now and come take the kill away from them.

 

post-48823-0-53183200-1479078377_thumb.jpg

 

A couple things to know about these lion sisters: first, and most importantly, one is slightly older and pregnant. The other seemed to be barely out of her kitten years — she was always trying to play with her sister, usually at completely inappropriate moments. Which sister is which? I’ll point it out as we go along, but before long, I bet you’ll be able to guess at a glance which one is which. Over the four days we were at Chitabe, we came to feel that we got to know their (very different!) personalities very well.

 

In this case, because the picture contains just their heads, I’m not sure which one is Older Sister and which one is Younger Sister, but I’m guessing that the one on the left, whose bite seems to be more purposeful and practiced, is probably Older Sister.

 

Once the sisters ate all they could, they tried to hide the remains in the long grass.

 

post-48823-0-66680900-1479078438_thumb.jpg

 

post-48823-0-83846200-1479078439_thumb.jpg

 

They even piled grass on top, using a motion I’ve seen my own kitty use many times after a visit to her kitty litter.

 

post-48823-0-79312000-1479078440_thumb.jpg

 

Somehow, they were not caught; instead, the lion who clearly had not eaten last night recruited them to go hunting with him.

 

post-48823-0-77911100-1479078624_thumb.jpg

Edited by hannahcat
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Neeners815

More fantastic pics! If I get any even 1/2 this good I will be totally satisfied and happy.

 

@@hannahcat we leave on Friday :o Victoria Falls first, then houseboat, then the camps... I'm extremely excited AND nervous! But in a good way!

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