Their forms have adorned cave walls in Africa, statues of them have marked the entrances to palaces of mighty kings that have long since fallen and faded in the past of history. Their proud and powerful stance was embroidered onto flags and depicted on emblems. Since the early accounts of man, our fascination with these magnificent beasts has made us continue to admire them, to want to be the strength and fierceness that they radiate. For some people, their need is fulfilled via conquering them.
The passing of time has not lessened the enthralling nature these wild animals have over our imaginations and souls. With their numbers dwindling in the wild, the fight to protect this epic specie from becoming extinct, as well as raising our conservation efforts to help and protect their captive brethren is at an all time high.
Social by nature and deadly by design, let me introduce you to the group of cats in the Serengeti South, Tanzania who I spent a collective 10 days observing and photographing while on a Serengeti photo safari; I welcome you to the Lions of the South.
Our first encounter was an introduction to the brilliant sightings that myself as well as the Alex Walker’s Serian clients were going to be beholders to; a pride of four male lions of varying ages scattered across interestingly patterned bounders.
The lions were pretty substantial in size and strength, and this was easily seen from quite a way away from them! We drove around the mass of boulders to get a better view of the lions as many of the sleeping cats were tucked behind higher rising surfaces.
To be able to get close to these apex predators in a safe manner that doesn’t influence or affect the lions natural interactions/actions is an act that many people do not understand or acknowledge just how lucky we are to be able to do so. What made these moments affect me all the more and evoke an array of emotions (and therefore images) was that we – Alex Walker’s Serian guests and I, and at times, I alone – were the only vehicles to be at these sightings and witnesses to the beauty of the natural world continuing regardless of our presence.
As we had nothing but time on our hands, we sat with these beasts and explored different ways of photographing them, and I was especially drawn to the shapes and textures of these colossal rocks. As always, I focused on how I felt at the sighting, which moments called out to me and let it dictate the type of images I would then create.
Over the years I have travelled to many destinations where I have had the privilege of viewing and photographing lions in a variety of environments. With that in mind, I was not prepared for the true beauty of personally seeing these sublime cats upon an outcrop of towering boulders. This vision truly made them seem untouchable as the reigned over the Southern Serengeti.
This, however, would not be the last time I would photograph these males on this particular outcrop.
A few days later I was on a drive making my way back towards this special area as in the very late hours of night, soul vibrating roars where heard – heralds of bonding and death.
We found one male on the boulders and he had clearly eaten. Dark red marked his face and although his belly was incredibly round and full, he seemed unsettled. This was not just the behaviour of an uncomfortable cat after having gorged himself on his prey. Searching, enquiring cries could be heard coming from him, its softness belying the beast he was.
He was looking towards a patch of open grassland that was separated from the outcrop by a line of young thorny Acacia trees, so to that direction we headed.
And we were in for a wonder of a spectacle!
Spread out on this open area under the sun as well as tucked under the shade of the Acacia’s were the other three brothers. Equally fat-bellied they were still alert, looking at the scene before my eyes confirmed why there was such noise from them the evening before! Surprisingly, and very commendable, each cat had their own wildebeest carcass. Yes; four male lions with four unlucky wildebeest. I have never seen such a sight as this before!
What felt like seconds must have been a good 1.5hours if not more that I spent photographing and/or just sitting with these amazing animals.
Finally they made their way to their brother perched on the rocks, and favored me with more phenomenal photographic opportunities.
From a female lion and her cubs playing and bonding with one another in the rain, to a beautiful sighting of another group of male lions grooming each other after feasting on a wildebeest in the rain, as well as other sightings, I can say with utmost confidence that the 10 days I had on this Serengeti photo safari, in Residence at Alex Walker’s Serengeti South camp, was my top lion experience I have had to date.
The world is filled with endlessly inspiring opportunities and experiences. Photography is a beautiful medium in which to tell your story of it and immortalize it.
Keep passionate and keep exploring.
– Penny Robartes
To read Part I of the Predators of the Serengeti, please click here:
To read Part II of the Predators of the Serengeti, please click here: