"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Africa Journals, Ch. 15, The Lion Sleeps

The Africa Journals

Chapter 15
The Lion Sleeps

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, The lion sleeps tonight
Wimoweh—Zulu song written and recorded by Solomon Linda, originally with the Evening Birds

I was up and it was early, but neither I nor "it" was very bright.   In fact, “it” was still dark, so dark I had trouble finding my way to the appointed rendezvous at the front of Mabula Game Lodge.  I struck a direct line for the nearest building with lights and hoped I wouldn’t trip over the resident warthogs on the way.

Breakfast would wait until we returned from our morning safari around 9 o’clock.   In the meantime, our guides were bearing rifles which they laid across the front of the Land Rovers.    I watched with interest as there had been no weapons at all on our safari yesterday evening.

Today I rode in Francis’s Land Rover, for a few reasons.  One was that I was the odd person in this group of 17, not including Brian, so it made sense that I would ride in whatever vehicle Brian was in.   Second, Sam was a jovial fellow and talked non-stop, but so quickly my brain had trouble getting through the accent.  Third, I could understand Brian, so Brian’s vehicle it was.

Francis is a very tall, lean, soft-spoken Zulu.   His bearing is of a kind, quietly gentle man who knows his job.   At the signal, we load up and head out just as the sun is lighting the horizon.  

Dawn comes quickly in the bushveld and a few minutes from camp, it's light enough to photograph this fellow.

"WHAT is that?!!" I say when Francis slows for a turn.   I knew what it was, I just couldn't believe it.   On the ground is a porcupine quill at least 8 inches long.   Brian says some are longer, and holds his hands about 18 inches apart.   I find that hard to believe, but later in the trip I see them in a souvenir shop.

We come to a gate.   Sam is waiting on the other side of the open gate, and pulls away as soon as we drive through.  Francis closes and locks the gate behind us.  We are now in the lions’ compound.   That’s the reason for the rifle.

The Lion's Gate

A small Duiker (antelope) runs across the road but too far away and too quickly for a photograph.   We pass the occasional Impala and other antelope, but our focus is on finding the lions.   They had been seen, and we drive through the various trails for a couple hours.

Blue Wildebeest.

The poor Blue Wildebeest, one of the Ugly Five, looks like it was assembled from leftover parts.

Then Brian tells Francis the vehicle has a low tire.  Not something you want to hear while you’re in the lion compound.  He drives to a place where fences meet in such a way that affords protection on three sides, then backs in.   He lifts the rifle from its resting place and unfastens the scabbard strap.  He pulls the rifle out a few inches in case he has to grab it quickly.

Notice he left the Land Rover door open.  The animals are accustomed to the vehicles, but not to people on the ground.

Caught watching the tall grass ahead are Arlene, Gail and Bob.

All eyes on the tall grass.   Fencing protected us on all sides but this one.

With all of us still seated in the vehicle, Francis changes the low tire.  We keep our eyes fastened on the tall grass in front of us.  Just as he finishes with the tire, another safari vehicle approaches.   The lions, the guide says, are straight ahead on this road.

And up the road we go.  We can see safari vehicles stopped ahead, so Francis pulls to a stop a ways back.   To prevent disturbing the animals, no more than two safari vehicles are allowed to stop near them at a time.  One vehicle leaves, and we pull up.   

Through dense brush, we can see a male lion walking, with a female behind him.   Francis pulls ahead a few feet, and we can see the head of the female, now lying down. 


In the photograph, a collar can be seen on the lioness.   Brian explains that to keep lions in a private reserve, there must be a way of quickly tracking them should they escape.  Thus the collars with tracking devices.  We were to learn much more about the lions during our stay at Mabula Game Reserve.

It was difficult for me to get a size perspective of this lioness.

For now, it is back to the lodge and breakfast.   Then, free time until our late afternoon safari drive.


  1. Fantastic pictures and narration. It may surprise you, but I liked the picture of the porcupine quill. When I was in high school I worked in a sporting goods store. We sold those quills for bobbers. The Bluegill fishermen liked them because they were so sensitive to a light nibble on their worm. I am totally enjoying your trip. See you in July.

  2. Sorry about all the typos. i changed tenses in this story late last night while the Iditarod was drawing to a fast and exciting finish.

  3. This day-trip of yours which was focused upon the lions seems more 'REAL' when the guides have weapons out-and-on-the-ready. It makes me believe that there could be some very real danger from the lions and that you are not in a nice 'zoo' so-to-speak with relatively 'tame' animals used-to-humans. Of course I believe that to-some-degree they certainly are used-to-humans.

    Early this morning I finally went to bed .. Patti stayed up through-it-all .. what a finish to the 2014 IDITAROD. Unimaginable Jeff King had to scratch due to severe winds and serious issues with this team getting tangled-up in some (??) drift-wood off-the-trail in the dark-of-night ..

    Today on Yahoo was a video of a brace of Hippos (Yahoo stated that the Hippos are known for being ruthless!) saving a GNU from an attack by a crocodile stating their .. Parental Instincts Took Over!


  4. Talk about drama! A low tire that needs changing in lion country....yikes!! So glad all ended well.