December 2016 in the Kgalagadi was extremely hot and dry, with daytime temperatures reaching 53 degrees Celsius. There was very little water, antelope were highly stressed and there was a lot of tension at the waterholes. On the morning of 11 January we left Nossob Camp heading north but soon decided to turn around and head back towards Nossob to look for the lions that had been spotted south of the camp the night before.
At about 7.45am we drove past Rooikop waterhole and noticed a lioness on the right-hand side of the road as she raised her head. She was staring intently in the direction of the trough to the left of the water pump where there was a little water and where a few gemsbok were lingering. They were oblivious of her presence but nevertheless alert and nervous. They walked around and then headed off, and we thought the lioness had missed her opportunity. But then a single gemsbok left the group and returned in the direction of the waterhole. The lioness lowered her head and sat motionless as it approached. We set our cameras and hoped for some action.
The gemsbok approached nervously with its head lowered, but it was desperate for water. It was now 8.34am and already swelteringly hot. Once the gemsbok was within striking distance, the lioness raised herself on her haunches and burst out from behind the bush with unbelievable power and speed as she pursued her prey. She reached the animal after about 20 metres and leapt on its back, bringing it down. A massive struggle ensued, while the antelope fought for its life and tried to defend itself with its horns. The lioness was joined by another younger one that we had not seen, who came to assist her in the tussle. Suddenly from the left-hand side of the road two massive black-maned lions ran past the car towards the scene of the struggle. As soon as they reached it, the lioness leapt up, not wanting to get in the way of the two males whose brute strength overwhelmed the fighting gemsbok in no time. The females looked on as the males took over the kill, then decided to leave, walking dejectedly towards us.
The wind had picked up, with dust blowing everywhere, and the lions decided to take the kill to the shade surrounding the waterhole, where they fed on it. The young lioness returned a short while later and chased off a jackal that, determined to get something to eat, had begun feeding on the entrails. At this, one of the feeding males leapt up and ran straight towards her, stopping her in her tracks. The jackal made off, and the male was happy to let her feed on the entrails while he returned to his place at the kill. After eating their fill, the males went and sat a short distance away while a massive dust storm continued around them. It was 9.30am and the end of an epic sighting!
Photo story by Nick Rabjohn