Life with the Lions

Life with the Lions

It was one of those moments. Brief but timeless. The lions had been seen on the previous mornings so there was a chance of a sighting. We had left the lodge early to begin a three hour safari in Chobe National Park (Botswana) at first light and had seen much in the first two hours. But the lions remained elusive. The drivers exchanged information as their vehicles passed and we learned that the pride was sleeping behind a log about two kilometres away.

The log was concealed by the bush. Our driver could see the paws of the lions but they were hidden from our so-called vantage position higher on the open safari truck. It did not look promising. Then the driver whispered that we should have our cameras ready. Something was going to happen.

The truck took off. Straight through the bush and round to the end of the log. And there they were. Four sleeping lions sprawled majestically under the now risen sun.

The truck stopped. A moment to take in the serenity of the scene. A second to lift the camera and snap. The lions were rousing. The truck was now reversing but in a semi circle to change direction. It would have to stop again. The cameras were raised. The truck stopped again. One of the lions roared. Most of us got a second shot as forward gear was engaged and we sped forward and returned to the safety of the road. All over in a few seconds that will last for ever.

The second sighting in Etosha (Namibia) was so different. We approached the waterhole in the late afternoon in the relative safety of the tour’s land cruiser. The old male lion was walking slowly but steadily towards the water. Distracted by him it was a few moments before we saw the other members of the pride already there. There were ten altogether. They drank and rested, unperturbed by the presence of the safari vehicles.

We continued watching. A giraffe approached the other side of the water. As it prepared to drink it saw the lions and froze to the spot. The lions appeared nonchalant but over the next few minutes they moved gradually into strategic positions, spaced apart, calm and patient, with their eyes firmly in the giraffe’s direction. The giraffe was terrified. Too much so to walk away. And the lions were ready should it move forward. We watched for about 20 minutes. The giraffe remained terrified. The lions remained patient.