I Saw Wildebeests Escape A Lion, But The Zebra Wasn't So Lucky

lion walking

Photo: Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

At 21,000 square miles, the Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania is the second largest game reserve in Africa and nearly twice the size of Denmark.But unlike Tanzanian tourist hotspots like Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, it’s relatively unknown to American travellers and largely unexplored. Tourist safaris are confined to just 20 per cent of the park.

I had the chance to visit the Selous on a recent press trip to Tanzania, where I stayed at a charming British inn called Beho Beho.

One morning we awoke at 6 a.m. for an early morning game drive to nearby Lake Manze to see the local game fill up on water.

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Disclosure: Our trip to Tanzania, including travel and lodging expenses, was sponsored by the Tanzania Tourist Board, Africa Adventure Company, Singita Grumeti Group, Coastal Aviation, Qatar Airways, Tanzania National Parks, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority and Wildlife Division.

My wake-up call came at 6 a.m., and after a quick cup of coffee we headed off on our drive.

Early mornings are considered the best times to see big game on safari, since the animals tend to look for food and water in the cooler temperatures.

A hyena wandered across our path as we started our ride.

Lake Manze is a 45-minute drive from Beho Beho, the safari camp where I was staying. It's one of several lakes in the area that are fed by the Rufiji River.

As we started our journey across the plains, we saw several herds of zebra headed towards Lake Manze.

I visited right before the rainy season started, when many animals give birth. This tiny zebra foal almost kept up with its mother.

We also saw a number of Masai giraffe, the national animal of Tanzania.

There were massive herds of wildebeests making their way to the lake.

Finally, we spotted Lake Manze. The area surrounding the lake was an oasis of green in an otherwise arid plain.

As we approached the shore, we saw this young male lion chase a herd of wildebeest. I thought I would see a kill, but the lion missed his prey. Panting, he lay down in the thick mud for a drink.

He was hunting separately from the rest of his pride, which our driver said had killed and eaten a zebra the previous day.

After 10 minutes of rest, the lion picked himself up and continued making his way around the shore.

In the thick mud, it wasn't easy.

A short while later, we came across this zebra carcass. It was all that remained of the lions' feast.

Vultures gathered nearby, guarding the carcass.

The bird on the left is a lappet-faced vulture, known for its aggressive nature and a powerful bill that can break open a carcass.

Continuing along the lake shore, we saw a herd of hundreds of African buffalo travelling to the lake for water. A few nimble impala drank nearby.

It was incredible to watch the buffalo make their way through the thick mud. A few calves struggled to free their legs.

The bulls can be identified by their massive, curved horns. They are prized by poachers, and can be deadly in a fight.

Finally, we found the lion pride that had killed and eaten the zebra.

The lions — two males and two females — were exhausted and full.

They laid under a tree panting heavily, and barely looked up at us.

I was surprised to find a great hotel in the middle of the Selous.

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