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True story, I am not lion

I am half awake from my deep sleep as I turn onto my other side. Camping mats are only comfortable for about 20 minutes. I glance at my is 3 am. We had a wonderful first day of hiking in the Kruger National Park on the Lonely Bull trail.

In my half awake state, I listen to the sounds of the bush that surrounds me. I hear the expected sounds of frogs and crickets. I can hear a Scops owl in the distance as it sends out its short bursts of tttrrrrrrpppppp calls for others to hear. There is also the unmistakable sound of the African Nightjar. I just love it!

Then I hear the deep roar of a male lion. The lion follows its first roar up with a few more and then everything goes quiet. Even the frogs and crickets stop to listen. My half awake state is now a fully awake state.

Earlier in the evening we could hear the lion in the distance, but these last roars were quite close. He has moved during the night. I do a mental stocktake of my small two-man tent. It doesn't stand a chance against a lion's armour of claws, teeth and brute strength. But, luckily the lion would see the tent's outline as the object and would not think to play with this "big rock". Besides, there are six other tents to choose from if it does decide to play with rocks. I doze off again wondering how big he is and if he is alone.

Sleeping in tents, under the stars, listening to the sounds of nature

At about 5 am I am jolted to reality from my dreamland by another set of roars. Mr. Mane sounds even closer and I am sure the tent vibrated on his last roar. Our guide, knowing that everyone is awake after that roar, asks how we feel about tracking Mr. Mane at first light. One by one the tents answer yes. "Okay, get dressed but try not to switch on your flashlights. It will give away your shape inside the tent and we don't know what else is close to our tents."

That is what I love about this guide. He has a quiet demeanour, but an unquenchable thirst for adventure. The previous day we ran into, known as bumped, a male hippo feeding next to the river. We thought it was scary, but the guide just smiled.

Kruger Guides - Specialists in their field

After about ten minutes the guide's tent zips open. There is a short silence and then he says the coast is clear. We can go. "You don't need anything. Perhaps just a camera," he says as he holds his rifle. He ventures a guess that the lion is only 300 meters away. We listen as he repeats the safety instructions. This time we listen intently and not like we did when we started the hike the previous day; I was still fiddling with my gear.

In a single file we silently follow the two armed guides. It's funny how exaggerated the sound of each step is when you know there is a lion around the corner. A small twig or dry leave being stepped on sounds like an announcement to Mr. Mane that nine two-legged portions of meat are on their way for breakfast.

Mr. Mane, to his credit, helps us by continuing his morning serenade of thunderous roars. It makes tracking him easier...until he goes silent.

Then we all stop and listen. You can feel the mix of excitement and apprehension in the group as we walk. Do you walk in the front to get a view of Mr. Mane? Or do you walk at the back to be the last one to be eaten? Or do you stick to the middle as the best of both options? Mr. Mane has been quiet for several minutes. We slowly make progress, but he could be anywhere.

Suddenly there is a short growl and then a charge through the bush, away from us.

I only caught a glimpse of the flash of brown as Mr. Mane bolted away. Wow! The size, the power, the speed. Luckily, he decided to run away and not towards us.

The guides know that Mr. Mane is long gone. We walk over to where he was lying under the bush. His tracks are clearly visible in the sand. He is a big boy. The guide was right; we probably walked only 300 meters from camp.

A male lion’s footprint makes my Swiss army knife look small.

With our morning adrenaline fix, we head back to camp for our caffeine fix. We still have to walk quietly, but you can hear the whispered retelling of the moment Mr. Mane ran away. Not everyone can boast that they have tracked a lion before breakfast.

The Adventure Life Lesson

At Inkwazi Adventures we believe there is a life lesson in any adventure. This unique and unforgettable encounter reminds us that, whenever unexpected opportunities present themselves, we should get up and go after them. Don’t do it blindly; look at the signs that are presented and then get a mentor/expert/guide to help you along the journey.

"One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes." — Benjamin Disraeli

Retold as it happened on our UHAMBO 2022 adventure.

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