Thornybush Game Drive #5: Landscaping and Lions

Location: Thornybush Game Preserve

“What else would you be doing at 6:00 on a Friday night?”


We awoke from our afternoon nap and made our way to the lodge for lunch and prepare for evening game drive, and at sometime in the preceding hours Chewie fixed the lamp which shines on the water hole behind the lodge. But before we sat down to eat it began to hail without warning. The skies were mostly clear, and there was no thunder or rain to kick off the event. For about 5-10 minutes hail about an inch wide fell hard from the sky before transitioning to rain. We we’re initially worried that this late afternoon rain storm would diminish our ability to see wildlife on tonight’s drive.

It didn’t.

The game drive started off easily enough. We found a magpie shrike and a Grey Go-away-bird (Lourie) before seeing larger game such as an upclose look at a giraffe.

Magpie Shrike
Magpie Shrike


Soon, reports came in over Chewie’s radio of a pair of buck elephants in the bush. He kept this to himself as he started to drive us across the preserve and later off-roading into the bush. We got maybe 30 m in before we all saw the bucks eating leaves and branches. It took some negotiating but we eventually made it into a good viewing position.





The highlight of the encounter came when we saw one of the pair, the one with the broken tusks, try to get to some leaves on a very tall tree. He lowered his head, and with three solid pushes, broke the tree and knocked it over.

The tree after the elephant knocked it over.
The tree after the elephant knocked it over.

We got 4k video of the event on the gopro and HD video with a zoom on the Olympus. But we can’t easily share it right now, so the pics will have to suffice.

The broken tusked elephant would take a few bites from the tree before moving on to another tree to eat. After noshing on various trees he found another tree with high leaves and he decided that that tree had to be moved. We were mostly out of view of that event, but we saw a nearby vehicle have to back up to get out of the way of the tree that he also tried to topple. He ultimately didn’t fell that tree.

Apparently elephants do this sort of landscaping… a lot! In fact during previous drives and walks Chewie pointed out numerous trees that were standing less than 48 hours prior.

We drove around a little bit more, and something came in over the radio that got Chewie very excited. He asserted his place in the queue and told us that they found something special and that we would be skipping our evening tea to try to get there as soon as possible. We were all okay with it.

Along the way he asked rhetorically what else we’d be doing at 6:00 on a Friday evening? Then told the Scots not to answer that question.

To avoid getting everyone’s hopes up, he left it for a surprise. He just told us that he hadn’t seen this in a little while. He then drove us quickly across the preserve. Along the way we saw groups of giraffes, zebras, and a few other species. We didn’t stop for pictures.

We soon understood why he rushed to get there. We finally got to see some lionesses. Two of the three lionesses were walking through the park. These were part of the pack controlled by the male we saw last night, and sleeping on his back this morning. Chewie and the other rangers had been trying to find them for over a week.

Crossing in front of the truck.
Crossing in front of the truck.

We got some great views of the pair as they walked along. They passed in front of our truck to cross the road. Then we re-positioned and they walked beside us. Finally we followed them along the road for many minutes. Great experience!



No one has seen the third lioness and her 6 month old cub recently. No one knew where to find them, until dinner.

We had dinner at the lodge with the other guests, which of course was quite delicious. We were all sitting around the table after dessert talking when Tom, one of the Scots, shouted that he spotted a lioness at the water hole. Like we said earlier, they got a lot out of the bush walk.

Across the water hole was the third lioness and her cub. The lighting was just okay, but below are the best pictures we got of the group. The two weren’t far from where we had our bush walk earlier in the day.

The cub
The cub
Mama walking away.
Mama walking away.

Total steps: 8,340

Post script: We saw this lesser bush baby on the drive back to the lodge tonight

Lesser bush baby
Lesser bush baby




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