The Big Five

One objective for most tourists who visit Africa is to tick off the “big five” from their list of animal sightings:  lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and Cape buffalo (how the cheetah got left off this list is a mystery to me).  Our guides were not only eager to find these animals for us, but to find them early in the day when they were still active, so we were usually out driving the roads of the national parks by 6 a.m.

Our reward for our early mornings was being able to see more of the natural behaviors of these fascinating animals.  Watching sleepy lions in the zoo pales in comparison to  the excitement of seeing a lion pride feeding on a fresh kill (in this case an unlucky young bull elephant) just meters away from our vehicle.

A pride of lions feeding on a young bull elephant

We counted 3 adult females, 5 sub-adults, and three small cubs feeding on this young elephant, killed just hours earlier.  Adults feed first, followed by sub-adults, and then smaller cubs.  If a male was with this pride, he would have been the first to feed, whether he participated in the kill or not.

A pride of lions feeding on a young bull elephant

The intensity of the her direct gaze is a bit unnerving. This female ensured that her cubs were getting some choice bits to eat by standing over them.

A pride of lions feeding on a young bull elephant

Clean-up time comes after the feast.

Lioness seeking shade after a big meal

After feasting, it’s time to find a shady spot for a rest.

Male lions at rest under a rain tree in Hwange Park, Zimbabwe

Sometimes it was just the scene itself that was captivating, like these two young male lions resting under a rain tree.

Male lions at rest under a rain tree in Hwange Park, Zimbabwe

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