Author: Andries Alberts, Game Warden of Bushmanland and the Nya Nya conservation area. To arrange your Namibia safari don’t hesitate to check our website.
Tari Kora is one of the many favoured watering holes in the Khaudum National Park. Situated in the northeastern corner of Namibia, the Great Khaudum is 386,400 hectares (nearly 955,000 acres) of unspoiled, unfenced, northern Kalahari, Savannah Woodland wilderness. It is the chosen home of Lion, Leopard, thousands of Elephants, Giraffe, Roan Antelope, Kudu, Oryx, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Steenbok, Hyaena and a host of bird life far too vast to list.
As the park is unfenced, these great creatures inhabit the Khaudum because they have chosen this place. In the four and a half years I’ve been privileged to reside in Tsumkwe, Tari Kora has provided me and many tourists from around the globe the opportunity to be part of their world, if only for a short while. Pictures capture memories, but it is the watching, waiting and listening in silence that yield the very best returns –
There is a comfortable viewing hide just a few hundred meters from the Tari Kora watering hole for optimum game viewing. Raleigh International, in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, constructed the hide in 2001, primarily to be utilized for full moon game counts which are held each September and October for 72 hours. The game counts are essential for accurate recording of wildlife population in the park.
The first full moon game count was held in September of 2002. We had begun our count at another watering hole, Soncana. We were blessed to witness nearly two hundred and fifty elephants that came to Soncana to drink that night, also many Roan Antelope, Kudu and Hyaena. Tragically one elephant cow had fallen into the watering trough the night before our arrival and after hours of trying to free her, as the warden of the Khaudum, Dries knew that she would not survive the trauma, and mercifully she was put out of her misery. Our spirits sank as her struggle ended, and her lifeless body was removed from the site. It was then necessary to await the arrival of more elephants coming to drink to ensure that the disturbance would not deter activity at the watering hole. Indeed another breeding herd came in later that day and we proceeded on to Tari Kora, just 45 kilometers from Soncana.
We arrived before sunset and greeted the others assigned to count at Tari Kora. They told us they had seen a leopard the previous night and we reported our story about the ill-fated elephant. Sunset is the best opportunity to spot predators. We watched, waited and listened, in silence.
Just a few hours later, we saw the most beautiful male lion walk calmly and confidently out of the bush, towards the watering hole. He walked back towards the bush and made a sudden turn. He was chasing something; it was a leopard — and the lion proceeded to chase the leopard into a tree!
It’s rare enough to see one predator, but both in the same place and interacting in this affirmation of authority is almost unheard of. The leopard remained dangling from a tree limb until the lion was finished drinking. We watched the lion as long as light allowed. Eventually the leopard came down to drink, confirming that the lion had left the premises. For many of us it was the first time we had ever seen predators and we all marveled at how lucky we were to see this chase.
The next day was quiet and peaceful as we watched several herds of Roan, Kudu and elephants take turns drinking. Breeding herds would wait until the bulls drank before approaching the watering hole. They knew this was the bulls’ territory. Even a lone Honey Badger visited us that night.
Early the next morning we walked to the installation pump to ensure it was operating properly. We felt sure we heard elephants very near, so we quickly walked around the watering hole where we had seen the lion chasing the leopard. Within a few minutes, Dries jokingly said, “Come on, – before the lions get us.” Glancing cautiously over my shoulder, we walked back to the safety of the hide.
Just minutes after returning to join the group, Dries whispered – “Lions.” Approximately 30 meters from us, a pride of ten, with 2 cubs approached the watering hole. My heart was racing and we quickly made a head count of the people present. One person was missing and was quickly spotted a few meters behind the hide. We motioned to him to remain silent, and to hurry back towards us.
Their silent approach made us understand how prey would be taken completely off guard. First came the lionesses, then the sub-adults and the cubs. The male did not appear until later as he kept watch over the pride approaching the water. One large lioness remained on guard at the water installation pump as the others drank. After about 40 minutes, she too walked to the watering hole and one of the other lionesses retreated to a well-concealed spot in the shade to take her turn keeping watch.
The male was adorned with a multi-colored mane, the blondest light gold surrounding the outer-most part and cascading down his chest in front, forming a billowing V-shape. He seemed to relish in the confidence he had in his lionesses. They guarded their pride with such authority and the cubs never took a step forward without the lionesses first checking, then proceeding forward, looking and acknowledging safe passage for the young ones.
At half past nine the pride left us. One by one they blended back into the golden camouflage of the bush. We felt they had performed this display of their social behavior specifically for us. It is one of the greatest gifts ever received for having just watched, waited and listened in silence.
Seventy-two hours in the great Khaudum. Our elephant’s demise was tragic, but the circle of life continues in one of the last, true wilderness habitats on the planet.
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