The phone rang and when I picked up, the voice said, “This is your wake up call.” Normally I would have protested greatly and especially since I was feeling so awful with my cold but I was out of bed quickly splashing water in my face, taking more drugs, blowing my nose, and getting my clothes on. It was safari time again!
Several of the other groups had seen a pride of lions the night before and Craig and Thomas were determined to track them down. It amazed me that they could tell one set of cat tracks from another and which direction they were going. We spent a great deal of time wandering around trying to find them. I spent part of that time trying to get a picture of an iconic African tree.
The radio crackled and the lions were reported to be in the riverbed we had crossed the day before on our way to Lukimbi. Since they were not on the Lukimbi reserve or concession, Thomas had to come off of his tracker’s seat and sit in the passenger seat. When not on your own concession, you cannot have a tracker out front.
We drove a ways and knew before we saw them where they were. There was a gathering traffic jam of Land Rovers and cars. Cars are allowed to drive on certain roads in Kruger National Park and this was one of them. The area was near a bridge that was being rebuilt across the now dry riverbed. When we’d passed by the previous day, there were a dozen or so men working there. Now just a couple hundred feet away was a pride of lions lazily passing the morning on the rocks.
Craig explained that the pride that roamed through the Lukumbi reserve usually numbered about 25 so this was only half of them. Several little ones climbed around the top playing with each other. At the base of the rock pile was the king of the jungle, the head honcho, the alpha male. Here and there were females resting as well.
We jockeyed for position several times as traffic needed to get through and others wanted to see but eventually we decided to move on. I could not believe how close we were but I was later to be even more amazed at our proximity to the pride.
A large stork flew overhead and then further down the road, several antelope crossed the road. They look beautiful from a distance but Craig told us if we got really close, we would discover that they were full of ticks and bugs.
Thomas put his hand out again and indicated a spot off the side of the road. There sat two lion cubs looking back at us as if to say, “Hi guys! What’s up?” Craig explained that mom had probably gone off to hunt and told them to stay. At this age though (he was guessing about 10 months) they were getting more curious and adventuresome and would wander a bit but stay within a certain range of where she set them. After all they didn’t want to miss the dinner call. Unfortunately, Craig said, their curiosity also made them vulnerable.
We sat and watched the two of them interact with each other. They seemed quite content to let us take all the pictures we wanted. It even seemed as though they mugged for the camera. When they wandered further off the road, we followed in the Land Rover. Craig thought that eventually mom might come along and they would lead us to a kill but it didn’t happen and it was time for tea.
Tea? In the jungle? Oh yes. Craig pulled to the side of the road and hopped out. By the time the rest of us were out of the Land Rover, he and Thomas had a table set up offering coffee or hot tea and biscuits. It was refreshing and a chance to relax a bit after our exciting morning.
On the way back to the lodge for breakfast, we slowed long enough to take pictures of some yellow beaked birds and a brown snake eagle but soon we arrived at the lodge for a wonderful breakfast that was to be followed by a walk to the river. On the list for viewing later in the morning—hippos!