An African Lions Tale

More on Africa:  Some Lions Tales

Let’s start with the lions which prove their claim to the moniker “King of the Beasts” through their size, strength and “take no prisoners” strut as they pad calmly wherever they will.

Our Botswana driver took us to our first full-mane lion sighting in a field so parched from the winter drought that the cat wasn’t easy to see until the vehicle was nearly on top.  Unbothered, he only moved his head but I have to admit that he wasn’t acting too kingly, apparently keeping some distance between himself and some nearby elephants.  Lions and elephants don’t get along well.

Our next encounter was the proof.  We’d been watching herds of elephants, Cape buffalo and impala, with some giraffes interspersed, heading across the watering holes towards the river.  Then our guide spotted a lion pair resting in the shade of the hillside brush.  The guide advised the driver to hold that position.  After some time, the female stood up and strolled calmly down the incline and across the path we’d just driven.  When she’d disappeared into the tall, dead grass, the male then stood and with an equal calm, took the same route.  Once the big cat had also disappeared into the field, our guide urged the driver to hurry our way towards the river.

The driver pulled up (a little bit farther away than the guide would have liked) just as the lioness cut off an adult buffalo and two calves from the back of the herd and took down one calf.  Several other buffalo turned as if to help, watched for a moment before changing their minds, rejoining the herd.

This took place directly ahead but our guide now called our attention to the right where the adult buffalo and second calf had been isolated.  We then saw the male lion carefully approaching for the kill.  The dangerous Cape buffalo is no easy prey, apparently killing more people annually than any other African animal.  This one was doing a good job fending off the attack until the female abandoned her kill and teamed up to take down this much larger prey.

We watched as the rest of the pride, four younger adults, arrived from the same direction to take on the remaining calf.  It was an amazing display of nature’s food chain at work.  The next day on our tour, the driver came up on what we were told was the same pride of lions.  Stomachs filled, they lazed under the shade of a tree, with no concern that we’d approached so close just to watch.

While we saw lions each day during our safari outings, the other encounter I’d like to talk about reminds me of the writing in the Book of Daniel when the Lord kept the lion mouths closed.  At the Inyati camp next to Kruger National Park in South Africa, our drivers took a circuitous route to locate a large pride sunning on the incline of a small ravine. 

We parked carefully among them, perhaps five adults and nine cubs, some in the ravine to our left, the others on the incline to our right.  Some as close as the vehicle itself, the rest no farther than 20 feet off.  At one point, another vehicle arrived with tourists a little younger and noisier than us.  Cubs in the ravine were slightly disturbed and began getting up and moving around our vehicle to the incline side.  The adults with them also shifted because the cubs had moved.

I’ve likened them to “yard dogs” on a hot day, moving only to find a cooler spot, then laying back down to ignore their surroundings.  Mind you, these yard dogs could eat you if you stepped down amongst them.  You might call this encounter an adrenalin thing, suspended between confidence and fear, mere feet away from such magnificent and dangerous creatures.

Or you could call it a God thing, where you’re sitting there, taking in this scene so close, and the only thought that can go through your mind is, “Wow!”