You’re with a group of clients and have been game-driving all morning. You stop under some trees for a packed lunch and are all sitting in the shade, looking out over the shimmering plains to the escarpment in the distance, discussing the morning’s highlights.
Just as you look down to open you lunch box, a large drop of blood splats down onto its lid from above. What do you do next:
1. Tell your group to get back to the vehicles as quick as they can and shoo them along from behind.
2. Leg it, calling over your shoulder for them to follow.
3. Stay where you are. You like your beef sandwiches rare and you cannot go wrong with a bit of extra sauce.
I was talking recently with one of the owners of a lodge we use in South Africa. For the purposed of this story the lodge will remain nameless. It is a romantic property – small, intimate, luxurious, in short the perfect venue for a honeymoon and one which we send clients to frequently. They love it, with a heated verandah bath overlooking the plains and private meals served under the stars. A fantastic place to start married life and forget the stresses of the wedding day. Not so for one couple who were staying there.
On the last day of their visit they decided to go on a walking safari, an exciting way of looking for animals and plants away from the noise of the vehicle. Accompanied by an armed guide/guard they ventured off into the park and all was going well until they stumbled upon a rhino in a patch of thin shrub woodland.
The guide told them to freeze – rhinos do not see well but can detect movement. But the rhino had caught the smell of them and did a short dummy charge. At this the couple did what they had been told at the briefing before the walk, they ran towards the nearest tree that would take their weight and began to climb. The woman got their first and was just getting off the ground when her new husband arrived and used her as a ladder to get to the upper branches.
The rhino departed and the guide was left with another dangerous animal – a very angry bride. She left the lodge that afternoon alone.
Sometimes you just need to look at something to know that there’s a mismatch. If I asked you to pick the winner between Mohammed Ali and Mary Poppins over 10 rounds for example, most I believe would select the former, even if the latter was allowed to use her umbrella. But sometimes it doesn’t work out as you would think.
On a recent visit to the Masai Mara I was enjoying a medicinal beer during the afternoon with a mate, while we watched 4 baby hippos try to take on a goose. The Camp, The Karen Blixen, overlooks a meander in the river where a pod of hippos lives. (It is a pod of hippos, maybe because they all lie tightly together like peas in a..) All the mums were asleep and the baby hippos decided it was time to establish who was boss to a lone goose on the water’s edge.
You’re a lion. You like meat. In fact you love meat so much that you eat nothing else. Meat for breakfast, meat for supper. Even meat snacks sometimes, washed down by a good drink from the waterhole. But occasionally everybody likes a bit of a change and that’s what seems to have happened in the Kruger National Park earlier this year.
You can self-drive in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. There is an excellent network of roads and the animals are all used to vehicles and don’t take any notice of them. Unless you are a couple of lions looking for an interesting snack. These two males wandered up to a Land Rover full of visitors and proceeded to have a chew on the tyres. Having punctured a couple of them, and had a good stare in the back window (looking for the spare?) they wandered off into the bush. Fortunately a passing vehicle had stopped and assisted, negating the need to either get out and change the tyre or walk for help.
Everybody wants to see lions when they go on safari. Ideally, they would like to see lions making a kill but this is a fairly rare occurrence. Not so for clients staying at the Kicheche Bush Camp in the Masai Mara, Kenya at the end of September. Having returned from a day of game-watching they were just showering or enjoying a cool sundowner in the bar, when lions chased a wildebeest through camp, past the camp fire before catching it beside the adjacent safari vehicle park. The clients met for dinner in the Mess tent as usual (accompanied by armed Masai guards!) and watched the lions eating and watching them eating. Seems only fair really.