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25 lions, 24 hours
in etosha

Lions at Etosha

Lionesses in the morning

I've said before that game viewing has its ups and downs.  Patrick and I spent 8 days in Kruger National Park, known throughout Africa as the best place to see lions, and didn't see any.  On our last day in Kruger, we saw five lions walking through the trees for about 30 seconds and that was our best lion sighting.  Lion viewing is notoriously difficult because lions spend their days lounging in the tall grass, hunt at nights when game vehicles are prohibited from entering the parks, and rarely come near the roads.  So, given all that, we didn't have high expectations for seeing lions in Etosha.

Lionesses at Etosha

Lions at Etosha

Lionesses and cub at Etosha

That might, actually, be the trick to game viewing.  Have low expectations and, then, they will be far, far exceeded.

Giraffe drinking water

Giraffe drinking water

It happened like this:  On our first night at the Okakueje watering hole, we watched a herd of giraffes hanging out and drinking in the funny way that giraffes drink. (Have you ever seen that?  They stretch their legs very carefully all the way out, on either side, and then stick their heads down, in between.)  A herd of rhinos came in and some coyotes and all the animals seemed to be enjoying their refreshing drink.

Lions at night watering hole Etosha

Lionesses at watering hole

And, then, before we understood what had happened, the scene shifted.  The rhinos bucked back, protecting their young rhino, and the giraffes walked away from the water, standing alert and, at watch.  A lion and five lionesses sauntered in, hungry and thirsty.  The lion roared, a sound more primal and frightening than anything I have ever heard before.  Though I was behind an electric fence, my skin popped out goose pimples and my heart raced.  They chased those poor giraffes, but were never fast enough to eat that night.  When we finally hit the sleeping bags at 1:30 a.m., knowing we would need to be up at 6:30 a.m. for the next morning's game drive, the lion's roar penetrated my dreams.

Lions at Etosha

Lion and lioness outside camp gate

The next morning, one of the others on our trip spotted a lion and lioness sitting far in the distance as soon as we left the gates of our campsite.  But, otherwise, the morning drive was mostly devoid of game and I considered sitting out the afternoon game drive and, instead, staying at the watering hole.

Lions

Lionesses and cub at Etosha

I was so glad that I went on that afternoon game drive because, after a far off glimpse of another lion, we chanced upon this.

Lioness

Lionesses and cubs

Fourteen lionesses and cubs (!) sat mere feet from our overlanding truck in an open area near a small watering hole.

Lioness at watering hole

Lioness and reflection at watering hole

There may have been a little squealing but, mostly, all I heard was the constant clicking of camera shutters as we watched the lionesses.  

Lionesses

Lionesses

They were simply gorgeous in the waning light.

Elephant and lioness

Elephant and lioness at watering hole

Unsurprisingly, the watering hole was devoid of any other animals except for two large elephants who warily stood apart from the pride of lions.

Lion

Lion

And, when we thought we had seen all that could be seen, the big daddy came home.  Isn't he just gorgeous?

Lion

Lion and lioness

Like most of us, the lion had an after-work ritual. 

Lion with lionesses

Lion and lionesses

He came to each of the lionesses, sniffed their bums, and touched their noses.

Lion and lioness growling

Lioness eager to mate

The last lioness, we found, was eager to get it on (in the immortal words of Marvin Gaye), and kept showing her teeth to the male lion.

Lion with cub

Lion and cub

He apparently wasn't in the mood so he hunkered down and then the two cubs came to him.  They stood on his paws, smelled him, and cuddled between his legs.  Without a doubt, he was proud to be their father and proud to have such a strong, big family.  Though we could have sat there for hours longer, we raced back to the gate in order to get our truck in before the gate closed at 6:00 p.m.

Lionesses

Lionesses and cubs

In the morning, the lionesses and cubs were still there, basking in the early morning glow.

Lazy lions

Lazy lionesses

They had hunted the night before and lazed near the watering hole, not perturbed in the least by the slew of cars and trucks that parked near them.

Lion drinking water Lion drinking water
Lion drinking water Lioness at watering hole
Lionesses Lioness drinking water

Lioness drinking water

We watched them drink water and pad around the rim of the watering hole.

Lion cubs

Cubs

The cubs had plenty of energy, of course.

Lioness

Lionesses

Their mothers and aunts slept while the cubs romped about and rolled in mud, apparently a universal trick amongst all babies.

Lionesses

 Lionesses

It was a photographer's dream.

Lions at watering hole

Lionesses

The light was that pale, creamy orange of early morning Africa and the lionesses' fur glowed like gold against the cream and ivory sand.

Lioness at watering hole

Lioness at watering hole

The pictures that came out of that morning are some of my favorite shots from the last year and a half. 

Lionesses

Lionesses

This one, in particular, of the lioness looking down is so serene.  If we ever settle down . . . a long distant, far away dream, perhaps . . . I want to get this printed and put it up on the wall.  (If you're as smitten with this picture as I am or any of these lion shots, click on any of these pictures to see them in high resolution 1026 pixels.)

Lioness

Lionesses

Afterwards, we pinched ourselves, unable to believe our luck.  It's not every day that we see 25 lions in 24 hours.

*Our trip was sponsored in part by Africa-in-Focus but they did not ask us to write this post or any part of this post.  As always, our opinions (both good and bad) are our own.  If you are interested in our perceptions of the expedition in general, check out our Overlanding 101 post where we provide a detailed review of the trip.

01/16/2011 15:43
Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful!
Love those photos. I'm a sucker for any kind of cat big or small and those babies are just adorable. You really got some great shots there.
Kristina's recent blog post: Kindle 3 Review-Part 2
01/16/2011 15:43
Thank you Kristina! We aren't huge small cat people but we love those big cats!
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 15:45
Wow guys, such an incredible experience! Hopefully someday we will be able to have this moment as well. Your photos are priceless. *jaw dropping* here!
01/16/2011 15:45
Dina, thank you! I hope that you make it out there because seeing those lions made our day.
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 15:46
These are absolutely amazing shots. And you have officially just sold us on Namibia for 2012!
01/16/2011 15:46
Thank you Kristin! And, I fully take on that responsibility because Namibia is an amazing country that doesn't get the travel recognition it deserves.
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 15:46
Amazing, as per usual.
01/16/2011 15:46
Thank you Candice!
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 15:47
OMG! Did you really spot them all in just a day? I love to see wild animals and get close to them without being hurt of course. I love going to Safari but your experience is different. The cubs are so cute.
01/16/2011 15:47
Alicia, we couldn't believe it ourselves . . . it was a dream come true to see so many in one day! That's absolutely the thing: now that I've gone on safari, I can't ever see myself going back to a zoo.
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 16:39
OMG OMG OMG!!! I have freaking goosebumps. I think I would have had tears in my eyes the entire time I was taking the pics. AMAZING! LOVE the shot of the elephant and lion. WOW!
01/16/2011 16:39
The first 50 pictures we took and those initial videos are all shaky because we were so excited that we couldn't hold our hands still. Thank you so much! We thought it was pretty incredible that the elephants just hung out there with all those lions.
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 16:48
The photos are STUNNING! Looks like you got so close to the lions... and there are so many of them. What an awesome experience!
01/16/2011 16:48
LeslieTravel: Thank you! We were amazed by how many of them there were in one place. It was a whole pride which is pretty rare to find. We got very close but our 400 mm lens also helped us capture these pictures because we weren't as close as the pictures make it seem!
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 16:48
The watering hole photos is just beautiful. I love the reflection. What fun!
01/16/2011 16:48
Thank you Kim! We love reflection photos, too.
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 16:49
I went to Kruger a few years ago and thank you for bringing back these camel-colored giants back to life. The photos are really professional!

Charu
01/16/2011 16:49
Thank you Butterflydiary! We didn't see very many at Kruger but I'm glad that you did. Etosha was the place to see lions, for us!
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 16:49
Soooo cool!!
01/16/2011 16:49
Thanks Rebecca!
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 16:50
This was excellent. Thank you!
01/16/2011 16:50
Thank you missionarymomma!
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 16:51
Wow. Stunning photos! I love the picture with the elephants. Witnessing those two animals together would be my dream come true.
01/16/2011 16:51
Thank you Myra! The funny thing was that when we drove up, we didn't see the lions because they were dwarfed by the elephants and the light was fading in the afternoon. We saw the elephants and got excited and, then, when we realized that there were lions surrounding the elephants, the cameras really started snapping! It was a dream come true for us, as well.
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/16/2011 16:57
Wow, what an amazing experience and gorgeous photos. The light in those last few photos is just stunning. Despite many BBC documentaries I've never seen a giraffe drink so thanks for sharing that one! It's a wonder they don't fall over. I think perhaps evolution was playing a bit of a joke that day - 'here you can have easy access to the juiciest leaves but when you drink you'll probably fall flat on your face'
Tracy Burns's recent blog post: Enjoying the great outdoors, when we can!
01/16/2011 16:57
Thanks Tracy Burns! The sad (and kind of funny part) about the giraffes is that they are SO careful when they bend down to drink water. They very, very, very slowly come down toward the water and then they lift their head up to look around and if they see anything that freaks them out, they get back up immediately. It takes them almost 15 minutes for them to bend down to drink water.
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/17/2011 08:59
"Have low expectations and, then, they will be far, far exceeded."
I think it can be applied to anything, not only game spotting :)
01/17/2011 08:59
Vi: You are absolutely right! This should be part of our philosophy of life.
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/17/2011 09:04
HOW AWESOME! I am a sucker for lions. I could literally watch them for hours and be a happy camper.
Erica Desiree Kuschel's recent blog post: Risks in the Game of Life
01/17/2011 09:04
So could we! We didn't want to leave the lions and would have sat there the whole day if the truck hadn't been on a schedule. We hated leaving!
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/17/2011 09:12
These photos are AMAZING -- the lighting, colors, elephants framing the lion, the watering hole, giraffe -- so much to see and all so incredible! I'm so glad I found your blog... and thanks for finding ours first! Can't wait to read more. And anything else we can answer, just let me know.... Left you an answer at our blog!
Diane and Cosmo
01/17/2011 09:12
Thanks so much Diane! We are so excited to find your site too because we need all the help we can get as we plan our European adventure with the pups!
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/19/2011 09:57
Ryan
Akila, these are all great pics, but the one of the four lionesses at the watering hole is truly incredible. What a great experience.
01/19/2011 09:57
Thanks Ryan! I can't wait to post the video about the lions because the video might be my very favorite video I've ever taken and it features those four very prominently. :)
Akila's recent blog post: an elephant family
06/01/2011 12:58
Great photos but I dont think I would want to be that close to that many lions though!
06/01/2011 17:38
Yes you would! It was an incredible experience - totally blew us away. And, they're actually very lazy during the day. They don't even really bother with the humans - I guess they realize that we're not prey.
Akila's recent blog post: on fear
06/07/2011 09:19
I could never get this close to lions, although it must be totally amazing to be that close to the king of the jungle
06/12/2011 19:18
You could! You're safe inside the trucks but you feel like you're so close to them. And, a lot of time, they mostly ignore us.
Akila's recent blog post: food unites in south africa
07/03/2011 06:32
Absolutely gorgeous. I just couldn't get enough of the photographs. I especially loved the photos of when dad came home and of them all just lounging and sleeping together. One big happy family. They truly are the most beautiful creatures on earth. Congratulations on an amazing 24 hours.
Dave and Deb's recent blog post: Iconic Photographs by Steve McCurry
07/05/2011 09:39
Thanks guys! They are absolutely majestic, aren't they? We feel incredibly fortunate that we got to experience that magical day.
Akila's recent blog post: fig charleston
07/06/2011 16:28
very great pics the little lion is the greatest :)
07/08/2011 13:26
Thanks!
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07/21/2011 09:56
Mack Reynolds
these are some great pictures. there appears to be a bit of a pattern on the lionesses coats. very cool looking. what a lucky chance to have seen so many lions in an otherwise uneventful (up til then) game-seeing trip.
07/24/2011 15:55
Awesome photos!
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08/12/2011 09:24
LICORNE31
Hi !

The best place on earth to watch lions and other great big cats it's in the Masai Mara NP (Kenya). I can tell that you will not disapointed ! thousands and thousands of fpeople who travel to many african places, 'and who stayed in the Kruger too), will tell the same. Try the next time, and I promiss you great great time.
08/13/2011 08:38
We definitely want to make it to the Masai Mara at some point. We've heard that it's incredible!
Akila's recent blog post: weekly photo: penguins at boulders
09/29/2011 13:12
Completely incredible!
10/27/2011 11:07
YOu're lucky! to have this photos! have you ever feel any nerve while taking pictures?
11/03/2011 08:57
We were far enough away and safely on the roof of our truck when taking these. However, when we were in Etosha, the lion roared to begin the hunt at the watering hole. The base of the roar shook our rib cages, and everyone of us felt a basal instinct to run. To this day, the thought of it still sends shivers down Akila's and my spines.
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11/04/2011 08:01
Wow. Just wow. Furiously taking notes, have bookmarked the page- gotta see it for ourselves! Thanks so much for sharing.
The GypsyNesters's recent blog post: Mounting the Alps
11/06/2011 12:19
YES, you do! Etosha is UNBELIEVABLE. Seriously --- the pictures are great but seeing it in person is one of those absolute life-altering experiences. When I heard the lions roar as I laid in my sleeping bag, I knew that I would remember that sound for the rest of my life.
Akila's recent blog post: weekly photo: light on bark
11/06/2011 22:01
Thats just amazing. I love all the pics. Reminding me of Zoo, I visited last year :P .
11/10/2011 07:24
Thanks Nick! It is so much more amazing in the wild than in the zoo.
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11/15/2011 05:05
They seem to get used to people taking photos of them. You guys are fearless and amazing shots :)
11/28/2011 04:32
What the name of this pride? They look so harmless from the distance. Love the pic of the group drinking at the water hole and also, the pic of the cubs fooling around :)
12/12/2011 12:47
The photo of the lioness at the watering hole at dusk is stunning. So glad you were able to spot a pride -- it changes the entire safari experience.
Maria of Culture-ist's recent blog post: Video: Icelands Midnight Sun
12/12/2011 13:38
Maria, Thank you! It COMPLETELY changed our safari experiences, making it the best day in our entire 3 weeks traveling through Namibia and Botswana.
12/18/2011 02:28
The sharpness of the photos is awesome. Personal favorite is the night time one of the lionesses at the watering hole. The colors are brilliant!
12/30/2011 23:16
Woow...stunning photograph...that seems like prolific safari...sighting these many lions in a single day certainly is a great fortune..
07/14/2012 12:12
sweet lion.... I love it!
07/17/2012 14:50
Thank you!
07/18/2012 04:29
Ciao,
I m italian:) I ve never seen so beautiful photo lions....
08/08/2012 08:06
looking this foto I remember about chiristian Leon.
Do you know it?
09/20/2012 07:42
I love this sweet lions!
01/22/2013 04:14
I love this photo!
01/31/2013 07:56
lions represent the forest in all its beauty
02/04/2013 02:42
photographs are spectacular, the lion is synonymous with strength and power
02/15/2013 07:55
lions are magnificent
03/18/2013 04:34
Congratulations, these photos are magnificent and spectacular

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