An amazing evening with the pride
During the building phase of a camp in Hwange, I had to go to Sinamatella Camp to drop some people off. When I returned, I drove straight past camp and out into the grassland. I had Gareth, my then apprentice guide with me. We had bought some beers at Sinamtella and decided to go for a drive around the concession and see what we could see. After a while we stopped and got out, chatting over a beer. We had been there about twenty minutes when we both heard a grunt come from behind us in the grass.
We immediately looked at each other, then jumped in the car and raced to where we had heard the noise. About twenty metres behind us, our local pride of lions had taken down a young buffalo. I think the young buffalo had been separated from a herd that passed by earlier in the day, as there were no other buffalo around. We had not heard a thing till the lions had grabbed the buffalo.
As they were engrossed in their kill, I was able to maneouver the car to within about three metres of the feeding lions. It was now dusk and we sat for the next two hours with the pride whilst they fed and I took many photos. There was a good moon up so we could see well. It is an incredible feeling to be that close to feeding lions in an open vehicle. The noise of them fighting and growling goes right through you. Visceral is the only way I can describe it.
When they had begun finishing up on the kill, one of the young males stood up from the carcass and walked over to the front bumper of the Land Rover. This young male had shown a very curious side the last few times we had seen him. I leant forward in my seat and was looking over the door at the lion. He then walked down the car sniffing, licking and biting the body of the Land Rover - not hard but just testing what it was I guess. When he came to my door, I just sat dead still. My head was basically level with the top of the door and roughly at the same height as his. He licked the door handle and then bit it softly. Then he looked up and moved forward a bit. We were now eye to eye about ten centimetres apart, nothing in between us. This lasted about ten seconds and then the lion continued to walk down the side of the car. After he had gone I slowly turned around and looked at Gareth. He mouthed the words “What the ****!".
To date, I think that is probably my most amazing encounter with a wild animal. To stare into a wild lion's eyes, ten centimetres away in the moonlight is something I will never forget and I feel truly privileged to have done it!
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