Nestled in the heart of the Central Kalahari in Botswana is a fossil riverbed known as the Letiahau River, which forms the heart of the territory of the Letiahau Pride. What sets them apart (other than their exceptional good looks) from the many other prides we have worked with across sub-Saharan Africa is that they are unusually curious and bold.
On an orange-hued evening in January 2019, we once again encountered this engaging group of nine tawny-coloured felids strewn across the road. A large sub-adult male, whom we named Tobey, sauntered up to our vehicle and attempt to chew the tyres, bite the mud guards and dismantle the two-bar cover (which he duly ran off with), only to be joined by several others in a leonine version of Tag.
It was an ideal opportunity to get some low-angle images of this handsome group of car hijackers, but whenever I went to lie on the ground, one or more of them would come over to see what I was up to. No sooner would I get back in the car than they would return to the vehicle to satisfy their feline curiosity. When we tried to move away, they would give chase, relishing this giant version of cat and mouse, their huge eyes sparkling and shining in excitement.
During a lull I crept into the grass, close to where a large lioness lay. With my very slow and respectful approach, she paid me little attention until I adjusted my camera bean bag.
She looked at me, getting up as unobtrusively as possible, all the time feigning disinterest. Then she moved with purpose, advancing with the rhythmic shoulder-blade movement that so personifies a large stalking feline.
The golden rays of the sunset illuminated her magnificent amber eyes. Entranced, I gazed into them, giving little thought to the fact that I was the subject of their focus. Then Tobey came romping towards me. In a flash, I grabbed my belongings before hopping back into the car, as he would gladly have taken more souvenirs. Tobey stood looking through the window, wondering why I didn’t want to play along.
Together we sat, from two very different worlds, soaking up the last rays of another magnificent African sunset before we went to sleep, and they went to work. It was the end of what had been an amazing encounter with this truly magnificent pride of very engaging lions.
Exhibition: 173cm x 113.5cm (68” x 45”)
Large: 146 cm x 96 cm (57.5″ x 38″)
Classic: 118cm x 77cm (46.5” x 30.5”)