Sometimes after the success of Eternal Enemies, the National Geographic filmmaking duo Dereck and Beverly Joubert from Great Plains. They wanted to revisit the theme of how some animals are thrust together by forces in nature beyond the obvious. Sometimes it comes over millennia of evolution; other times, it is caused by last year’s drought. They first came across strange elephant kills in the mornings while following lions. For many years, they pieced together enough visual evidence from the aftermaths to confirm their theory that lions were hunting elephants was the most likely answer.

After nine years, they were ready to go back into the night with new technology, equipment and historic evidence of where it might be happening to start this film. The film itself took four years, and eventually, the facts unfolded. It centres around one pride of lions that come in from an area where they interacted with hippos. The experimental hunting of hippos inadvertently prepared these lions for the next step, elephants. At first, it starts with a brazen attempt to get to water that is shrinking due to drought, and this throws the lions into very close and risky proximity to elephants. That familiarity quickly leads to a lack of fear when the new herds with babies come into their waterhole. Calves snatched, and slowly this pride of lions use the drought, and the driest part of the year, to start specialising in elephant hunting. Finally, the pride becomes so bold that they turn on the large bull elephants and adult females. The ultimate gladiator duel is where ten lions attack and climb onto an 11-ton elephant. Once again, the world was stunned at this revelation, and the Joubert’s set was not just a filming bar and discovery that also resulted in a peer-reviewed science paper.

This ultimate of battles is moving and exciting at the same time, but it delves into the sheer will to survive that elephant have, that drive to force their way into the future and out of trouble.

Continued from this, the Big Cat Month for Great Plains continues to grow, an indication of the pent-up desire to travel on safari once again. This, in combination with a steady roll back of restrictions on travel, making it easier and easier to come on safari is creating the perfect storm. On their press tour, they were asked why these animals fascinate us all so much. It might be that animalistic speed or Tennyson’s poem “Nature red in claw and tooth” that reminds us. Or is it that the large cats are the ones that actually hold Africa’s large landscapes together churning them up as they chase hoofed animals, keeping herds moving healthy and fit.

Back in the 1950’s, there were 450,000 lions in Africa and today there may be 20,000. Leopards have dropped from 700,000 to 50,000 and cheetahs below 7,000 so it may be the threat of extinction that holds us spellbound. Possibly our fascination with big cats stems from the fact that when we stare into their eyes, we feel humbled, and that for an instant we are no longer the top predator and in total control. At that moment of humility, we find our authenticity. That is the magic of safari.