It was the day after a heart-pounding lion encounter on our evening game drive from Nsolo Bush Camp in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.
John, our guide, said we would go back today to try to see the lions again as we had new guests in camp who hadn’t seen them. As I had been extremely worried by the lioness whose head had passed a little too close for comfort to my exposed feet in the safari vehicle the evening before, I devised the
Lion Licking Avoidance Strategy:
Like in Fight Club, the first rule of the Lion Licking Avoidance Strategy is never telling anyone else on your game drive about the Lion Licking Avoidance Strategy. They will think we are magnanimous for letting them sit up front! They will never know that they were actually the bait.
Offer the rows directly behind the driver to the other guests “so you can hear him better,” but really only so they would get eaten first. My husband, Greg, and I would sit in the very top row, as far away from the ground as possible. They will think we are magnanimous for letting them sit up front! They will never know that they were actually the bait.
Greg and I would put our backpacks on the floor of the vehicle in the opening creating a barrier between the lions and our feet.
We would put our green jackets over our backpacks so they would blend in with the vehicle and further obscure our ankles.
Duly prepared, all game drives can proceed!
We rode to the place where we saw the pride the night before. Twelve of the 13 lions were in the same place across from the elephant carcass: one male, five females, and six cubs. The adults were laying down, but when we parked, that same young lion came over to the vehicle, plopped down, and stared at us with his golden eyes, just like last night.
The other cubs started playing around, trying to get the adults to wake up and play just like in The Lion King movie.
Another vehicle showed up and the people were talking loudly for which I was glad because I figured the lions would go for them instead of us. At one point, a lady in the other vehicle even said, “Here, kitty, kitty.”
The adults refused to get up, so the cubs climbed onto a tree limb and started playing, pulling each other’s tails with their teeth.
We continued to watch the cubs play for a long time. They were so cute, putting their little heads on tree limbs and rocks, and one even fell into a little hole and just sat there with his head and paws sticking out.
One by one, the other females and all the cubs got up and walked by us to go to the carcass. We waited there until the big male finally got up last and walked right by us. It was amazing and this time, with Lion Licking Avoidance Strategy fully deployed I wasn’t even scared.
We celebrated our lion sighting with scotch and gin-and-tonics at our sundowner. But the evening wasn’t over. We started to drive in the dark. Zambia is one of the few African countries to allow night game drives. I love them as they are very spooky, you never know what will be around the next curve in the road because you can’t see ahead.
We saw zebra; a grysbok, an antelope which is the size of a small rabbit; almost ran into a hippo in the road; and then drove to a hyena den where we saw a mother hyena with two pups, who were so cute and curious, they looked like lion cubs but then grow up to be not-so-cute which is strange. I am running out of superlatives to say about this trip. Another amazing game drives. I feel like I saw everything in one day.
And the excitement wasn’t over yet because the next morning at around 4 a.m., we heard a lion roaring in our camp!
I wish every day could be a lion day.
For the prelude to this story, see And Then the Lion Licked His Shoes.