Contrary to popular belief, the life of a male lion is not that easy. Even though male lions are most often seen lying down, or commandeering the spoils of their lionesses’ hard work, when their call to action comes, it is usually extremely hostile.
To become a King in the lion world is no easy task; it requires tenacity, great strength and courage, as well as good strategy, and just sheer luck. The luck is being born with a few strong male siblings with whom to forge close brotherly bonds. These bonds and coalitions are especially important when defending their territories and prides, as the more firepower you have to take on challengers, the better your chances of staying alive and siring more offspring.
This magnificent Kalahari black-maned male lion was in the prime of his life, one of two males who held sway over territory in the Letihau region of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This particular area is as remote a location as any that can still be found in Africa. For hundreds of kilometres it is just you and whatever you cross paths with.
I encountered the Warrior on one of his routine territorial patrols. At strategic points he would scent-mark bushes, trees and other important features that would be recognised by any challenger as a boundary not to be crossed.
I remember lying flat on the ground as he approached. I dared not trip the shutter until he was very close, as I knew from previous experience how that simple sound could result in an altering of course. And I needed him to come as close as possible. When he was just 20 metres away I took my first image. He cocked his head for a second and then kept coming. A few more paces and I fired again.
This time he stopped, picked up the direction of the sound and the source from which it came, which was me. My heart was thumping in my chest, throbbing in my ears, as I kept my hands steady on the camera. I lay there with this regal male lion staring at me with curious golden orbs, weighing his next move toward the intruder in his kingdom. After several seconds of watching, he started approaching. When only a few metres away, he veered slightly, head down, apparently indifferent to my presence.
I was neither a threat nor a challenge: merely a curiosity in his line of duty as a warrior.