In my life experience I have heard stories of how some tourists were mauled by wild animals especially lions and elephants and never in my wildest imaginations have I ever thought I will encounter such moments.
Saturday 17th November 2018 brought the experience not in a silver platter but rather in a scary one. Our game drive in the Savuti Marshes situated in the heart of Chobe National park, and home to the only pride of lions in Africa that habitually hunt elephants, was both exciting and scary. Our main aim was to see the famous Marsh Pride in action.
A drive through the arid area which now is of a more desert than bush due to the sweltering heat, drought and lack of rain coupled with the eradication of an army of insatiable jaws was initially not exciting as we could not spot the predators but mostly elephants’ skulls. “Uhuu Dr Chase one a sa yake bona magata a ditau (Dr Chase was not lying about the massacre of elephants just see how many skulls are scatted around the park)” joked one of my travelmates.
After three hours of driving around the park, we were tipped by other tour guides that there are some lions resting at the Marabou Pan and we couldn’t wait to reach the area. Upon arrival there were about 16 lions with cubs, resting under a tree, while a lone opportunistic hunter tried to pounce on a wildebeest but failed. As we watch the world famous Marsh pride lions, one of them strolls towards the vehicle I am boarding. The tour guides had instructed us to remain calm. Although it was a very hot afternoon, I could feel cold sweat dripping down my spine, and butterflies in my stomach despite that I had just enjoyed a sumptuous meal. My stomach started making noises which resemble some African drums during performance of intense rituals.
Even more spine chilling, the lion came to rest next to the back wheel of the vehicle, which was just less than a meter from my seat. I could smell its stinking scent, with its nose covered in blood obviously from a recent meal. “Just be calm it won’t do anything to you,” said Moffat, the tour guide as my heart pumped blood at a very high speed. The scene created a spectacle for other tourists who took shots and whispered that "he is on its next menu!"
About 10 minutes later, another lion moved towards another tour vehicle parked a short distance from ours but immediately made a u-turn and came straight to our vehicle with its eyes fixed on me. At that time, I could see life evaporating before my naked us! Without a doubt, they were after me. At that moment my colleague Thalefang Charles was busy taking pictures. I clenched my fists preparing to give him ‘physical advice’ but quickly realised that I have a bigger problem closer to me than him and his camera.
The lion settled down at the back of our vehicle as if ensuring we are not going anywhere and at that moment, our tour guide nearly sent me to my grave when he announced “guys we cannot move as long as those two lions are next to our. If we move they will think we are attacking them and retaliate!” All this time, the tour guide, Moffat was calm and smiling as other tourists enjoyed the spectacle which to us was not funny anymore.
After about 10 minutes Moffat moved the vehicle forward slowly. All the time I was shouting instructions to him to be careful, having assumed the role of an expert tour guide. It was only after we moved away from the lion pride that I could feel my life returning to me as I settled down and relaxed in my seat. All this time my companions were still traumatized with some arguing that we should not have come too close to the big cats while others were excited with the adventure. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the thrill and couldn’t care less about the debate!
Surprisingly I was amazed at how unfazed these lions were by the presence of people in their pride lands and just how much of a thrilling experience it was.