After a lovely morning game, drive my guests wanted to be a bit more adventurous out in the African bush and asked if we can go out on a bushwalk. After assessing the weather and situation, we decided that the conditions were good enough for a walk. We proceeded to the vehicle and I gave my standard briefing in which I always mention that the walks are there to have a look at the smaller aspects of nature, and not to see how many of the Big 5 animals we can encounter, as this is obviously a risky situation at best.
We set of into the middle of the reserve to one of my favourite walking areas and it didn’t take long before we started to find some amazing little things. One of the most interesting being a matrimonial dung ball rolled during the previous rainy season, an artefact one comes across very rarely in this good of a condition. After spending some time explaining the making and purpose of the dung ball, we continued along the single animal trail cutting through the Knobthorn and Marula thicket. The wind started to pick up a bit and I decided to change direction to keep the wind in our favour. Barely 100m after this decision, we noticed tracks heading in the same direction as what we were walking, and not just any tracks – we were following the same pathway as the king of the jungle, or at least 8 kings and queens of the jungle.
We spent a bit of time talking about the possibilities and risks involved having these mighty animals in the area, but being a rather hot day and a watering hole no more than 500m away from us, my tracker and I were convinced that the lions were sleeping in the cool sand next to the water, and with the direction of the wind we were completely hidden from their senses. We gave the guests another briefing, just to ensure that everyone knows what we are about to attempt and exactly how we were going to do so.
We were about 60m away from the water’s edge, when a baboon gave an alarm call which made everyone stop dead in their tracks. After a couple of minutes, we could see the big male baboon sitting guard in a big Jackalberry, but he was not barking at us – he wasn’t even looking in our direction – his eyes was set on something else, something at the water. Thanks to the help from the baboon, we had an even better idea to the location of the big cats so we decided to widen the walking circle and came towards the water at a bigger angle. Moving through the bushes as quietly as we possibly could, we came to an opening overlooking the dam, and there in the shade we saw them – 8 lions having a late morning sleep in the cool sand. The wind suddenly changed direction and one of the younger lions picked up our scent. He nervously started to look around and this behaviour created a chain effect with the rest. Using the cover we had to our advantage, they were able to smell us but not see us, so before that changed we decided to back out of the area and make a loop back to the vehicle, along the way continuing to look at the smaller aspects of nature.
We don’t go looking for the big animals on walk, but it is a treat to be able to view these magnificent animals on foot. It always makes you realise how small we actually are, and a little bit of adrenalin has never been a bad thing.
Story by Piet (RiverLodge)