"Keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle and never stand up. That way they'll just think of the vehicle as a big rock." That's my favorite part of the safety speech guides give guests before the first game drive. A big rock? You must be shitting me. Rocks don't talk, move, or have onions and garlic on their breath. "You'll be fine in a tent, as long as you keep the fly zipped shut." The big rock thing again? Fuck a bunch of that.
I've spent plenty of time in a tent in bear country. The first few nights, I either didn't sleep a wink or had mini-nightmares, I couldn't tell which. Either way, I didn't get any rest. Eventually I did learn how to sleep with half-ton animals brushing up next to my tent. Eat me or don't eat me but I gots to get some sleep. But never, ever was I under the illusion that the bruins would mistake my domicile for a big rock.
But I kept my mouth shut during the safety speeches. It didn't matter to me one way or the other cuz I knew that I'd be able to move faster than the CEO from Kansas City if(and when) the vehicle got attacked.
The thing was, it seemed to be true. I've driven right next to several different lions, both successful prides and lone animals with ribs showing (which certainly meant they were hungry) and they paid me no mind. I've locked eyes, felt my pulse rate increase, and lost the blinking contest from close enough to reach out and scratch one under the chin.
I've followed(in a vehicle) a leopard that stalked an impala when it certainly would have been easier for her to kill one of us. A cat that can catch and strangle an antelope that weighs as much as it does and then climb a tree with the thing in its mouth could easily beat me in a wrestling match. But it chose the impala.
So when Johnnie the mechanic suggested we go watch the lions feeding on the hippo that I'd found from the air, I was all in. It took a bit to find the right waterhole cuz things look different from the air, but we did eventually find them. A pride of seven that let us get quite close. The pics were taken from 10 meters but we closed the distance to half of that trying to get a better angle to the sun and they didn't mind a bit.
Then Hendri stood up. The gnawing, tearing, and slurping stopped. Muscles flexed and rippled under tawny skin. It was as beautiful as it was scary. One lioness stood up and slunk(I prefer slinked, but spellchecker doesn't like it) toward us, her huge head swaying with each step. Johnnie slammed the truck into reverse and mashed the pedal.
I figured I'd be fine unless Johnnie ran the undercarriage onto a stump. When the lioness jumped, she would knock Hendri out of the open-air truck and that would keep their attention until we got away. Sure, we'd have some explaining to do, but they wouldn't eat all of us, they still had a day worth of hippo on the plate.
Johnnie didn't hit any stumps, Hendri didn't fall out, and the lioness didn't leap. She didn't think we were a big rock either.
I feel like I’m doing this backward.
3 days ago