Monday, September 23, 2013

No tigers or bears but, oh my!

Don't move. Stop right there. Ryan, hold still. Two male voices, two high-pitched, all three quite frantic. Maybe it was because animals had already shown an interest in Ryan. He found the black mamba on the boat. Just a little guy but dangerous enough cuz the immature ones haven't learned how to control venom flow yet and tend to waste it when giving warning bites. He and a honey badger had shared a fright at night. Ryan was setting up his tripod for some star pics when from our perch at the bar of Haina Kalahari Lodge (Look it up, someday I'll learn how to make one of those hyperlink doohickeys), we heard a growl and an oh god followed by two creatures, one big, one small, scurrying in opposite directions.

But I think most of the concern heard in the voices was due to the fact that only 15 meters separated Ryan from a lioness. Mozilla (like the browser, he says when he introduces himself) had come to pick us up from our tents just like the other mornings. Most lodges I've been to let you find your own way to the main area in the morning, but Haina staff asked us to wait for a ride. The tents are quite spread out and the Kalahari is known for lions, big ones, in fact the biggest on the planet which is weird to me since there's fuckall water most of the year. Back in the 70's Mark and Delia Owens were able to prove through radio collar tracking that lions can go an entire year without water, save what they get from their prey in the form of blood, stomach goo, etc.

Anyway, back to the front. So Moz has already scooped Matt and Dominique when Ed and I hop in at the end of the path leading to our tent. We drive around a patch of brush and Moz says, those tracks are fresh. I look down from my perch in the game drive vehicle and follow the trajectory of said tracks. No shit they're fresh, she's standing right there. And she's staring at Ryan.

Moz floors it to get the vehicle between the cat and the snack. Ryan climbs in and says, did you see the kudu? We point to the lion. Oh geez.

Now that we're all safe and sound in the open-air vehicle, why not follow the pride of eight stalking lions for a bit before we go get coffee and maybe a stiff drink? Well let's at least exhale. I still don't get how or why lions don't just rip people from vehicles, but they don't as long as you keep your hands inside the bus. (Kind of like wax on, wax off-there's a reason you just don't know it yet) I reckon if one figures that out, she'll promptly be killed and the gene won't spread.

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