We met three different groups of lions (one was alone, read on). After spending a few days in the reserve we learnt so much about these magnificent creatures, they have more interesting stories than some people. It was like watching a drama series unfold before my eyes.
The first lioness we met was this one right here.
She, unfortunately, was lost. She got separated from her pack and went off adventuring but now could not find her way back. No worries though, lioness are fearsome hunters and can survive on their own.
I always have this dilemma about feeling sorry for the lions when they don’t get enough to eat but it is also intensely depressing to see another animal getting eaten. Why can’t we all be friends?!
She has decided to stand on a fallen tree trunk to get a better sniff of where her pack is!
After realising that it was futile, she decided that it would be best to sit down and take a nap in the grass. Meow.
That was when we decided to leave her because she wasn’t doing much other than napping. So I don’t know whether she eventually found her family or not. I really hope so though. The lions that I’ve met were really chilled cats so I doubt that she’ll really be bothered anyways.
The second lioness that we met was hiding in the shade by a lake. No, she’s not that same lioness as before, you racist.
Our ranger, Robin, who was taking us around, knew that she belonged to a pack with a male lion. Now we had never seen a male lion before so we were all quite excited to see if reality matched up with the Lion King. Would he be charismatic, brave and charming like Mufasa? Or would he be a reject that lives with Warthogs and Meerkats? Also, Disney was not being very realistic about Simba hanging out with Timone because Meerkats and lions do not live in the same habitat. Lions live in the savannah while Meerkats live in sandy desert-like environments. Fun fact.
So off we went to find a lion.
However, tracks of the lions led us to a very busy area that the vehicle could not possible go through. The ranger suggested that he, alongside his spotter, go into the bushes to help us find the lions. They took their guns with them. Ok, we thought, let them do the work for us, we’ll wait in the car. Wait, what? How could that be safe? We were reassured that the lions didn’t like the mechanical smell of the vehicle and that if we just stayed in the car we would be fine. Ok, so just stay in the car while lions roam the area. Cool.
That would have been totally cool until my dad said these 4 words “I need to pee”.
“What do you mean you need to pee?! Stay in the car!”
“No, I really need to pee, I wanted to pee 30 minutes ago!”
“Then why didn’t you go 30 minutes ago?!?”
My dad was done with this discussion. He stood up, got out of the car and went to the back to do number one.
That was then this happened.
The lioness which we saw hiding under the tree earlier had been bemused by our presence and could now sniff out my dad and his excrements.
“OH MY GOD DAD THERE’S A LION GET BACK INTO THE CAR!!”
Remember our ranger assured us that we’d only be safe in the car because lions get confused about the metallic smell of the vehicle. Human flesh was still flesh. Human flesh mixed with the scent of gasoline oil? What the hell is that?
“AHH I’M DONE I’M DONE!”
“SHE’S COMING CLOSER OH MY GOD WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!”
She approached curious as my dad zipped us his pants and with all the speed a 50 year old man could muster, hopped back into the vehicle. She was still there. Watching us. We panicked and started cursing in mandarin “this time we’re done for”. That’s when we noticed the radio. We could radio our rangers to come back! Sure it would really embarrass our rangers but hey its life or death ok.
“Calling Robin, calling Robin.”
“There’s a lioness by the car, she’s looking at us”
I could almost hear Robin rolling his eyes. Tourists. Didn’t I just tell them if you stayed in the car it would be fine? Yes but we didn’t stay in the car, did we (thanks against dad, maintain your bladder please).
Seconds seem like eternity when you’re having a staring competition with a lioness that’s capable of ripping your head clean from your neck. Just as I was about to pray to Jesus and Allah and Buddha...
Our ranger, unamused by us embarrassing him on the radio where all his colleagues were listening in, came out of nowhere as our knight in khaki shorts. The lioness fled.
Maybe she wasn’t that ferocious nor did she want to eat us but hey, SHE’S A LION.
We kept silence about my dad’s little adventure, silently nodding that we would never speak of this to anyone. If you read this Robin, I’m sorry.
Good news is, we finally met Mufasa/Simba.
He was really shy and hid behind a tree. Anti-climactic after our near-death experience with his wife, ah wells bucket list checked!
The third group we met was a pack of five lions: a grandmother, a mother and her three sons. Her sons were still cubs, born just last year. They were playful and curious and their mane had only just started growing. Little pubescent teenage boys!
We first met them on a night drive when they were at the most active. The mother and grandmother were going hunting and were telling the cubs to stay put.
I managed to this shot, a lion equivalent of a group hug.
“STAY PUT YOU LITTLE RASCAL!” It was truly amazing to see how lions had a very closely-knit family structure and actually showed affection. It wasn’t just pure survival that brought them to live in packs, I’m convinced that they actually loved one another. Nawww, maybe we shouldn’t have been afraid of the lioness, maybe she just wanted to give us a hug. Sure.
Captivated by these lions and disappointed by the bad lighting (thus the black and white photos), we decided to go look for them the following morning. This would have been our last day at Phinda. In less than 15 minutes, we found them.
They were done with a night of hunting and were just hanging out. The grandma was doting on her little grandcubs again, precious.
This is one of the grandcubs who were very curious about the vehicle, he actually came very close to us and gave us this smirk. You can see his mane starting to grow out. Manes actually have a protective use as they protect the lion’s neck when they fight with other males. So no, it’s not a fashion statement and dear hipsters, that’s not the reason why you keep your beards either.
Why grandma, what big teeth you have.
Oh my goodness, grandma, what bigger teeth you have. The grandmother is a ripe old age of 17 years which is very rare for lions in the wild. So kudos to you for still having your teeth.