A Lion’s Tale

From Punda Maria we headed south to Shingwedzi camp, where we had managed to book one night’s camping and two nights in a room, as the camp site was allegedly full. We had a relaxed start on our first morning there, chatting to a pair of ex-pat Brits who had spotted the number plate. Our chosen route for the day was to a place called Red Rock, which met a sarcastic reception from the husband – “that will be a riveting drive” – suggesting we wouldn’t see much apart from some red rocks. How wrong he was. The track followed the river and made for a really pretty drive. We found a side spur that took us about 15 metres from the main track down towards the river. There were a group of elephants in the river bed, of varying ages including several youngsters, so we turned off the engine and sat and watched them. The little one was trying to give himself a dust bath, sucking dust up in his trunk and flicking it back over himself. He’d obviously picked this up from the adults and still had quite a bit of practicing to do as most of it missed him and went in the face of an older relative. Very cute.

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As they got level with us they turned and walked up the bank just next to us. They were very relaxed and we just sat there as they came by about 6 metres away. When he saw the car the little one turned towards us and flapped his ears, just to make sure we understood that he was a big fierce elephant and he was boss. Of course we did so, satisfied, he carried quietly on with the others. Then suddenly there was pandemonium. They all started running and trumpeting and growling furiously, up the bank and away from us. And there was another noise, a roar that was different from the elephants. We didn’t know what was going on. We knew it wasn’t our presence but we didn’t want to be in the middle of trouble so we sat and waited until the noise had died down. When all was quiet we gingerly started the engine and crept back up the bank. There at the top was a pair of lions, one each side of the car. They were lying quietly, so we edged the car forward and stopped next to them. They were totally relaxed and after a bit of a look at us got on with chilling.

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It’s very tiring being a lion…

We had them to ourselves for about 10 minutes before another car turned up. They were so close to us. Then he got up and walked towards the car, giving us a moment of alarm as the windows were open so we could get our pics. But we weren’t his target and he quickly turned and walked round the front of the car to say hello to his lady friend on the other side. From her reception he obviously hadn’t made much of an impression yet… 

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Not today sunshine…

The look on his face was brilliant. He turned away looking really dejected and walked past her and further round the car.

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Women! Who’d be a man?!

He sat down about 2 metres from Gareth’s door. He was so close that you can see the car reflected in his eyes.

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It was awesome. We eventually left them to it and headed back to camp. They were obviously building up to mating, even though he still had a bit of work to do on the schmoozing side. This meant they were likely to be in the same area for a while, so we headed back the following day. We found them snoozing, watched by a game viewing vehicle with a very friendly guide and a group of Brits in the back. We were told they had just mated so we had about half an hour’s wait for the next round. Sure enough, after about half an hour he got up and wandered over to her. Whether it was chocolates or flowers I don’t know but things had certainly changed since yesterday. She was very relaxed and rolled around on her back at his approach. Tart. She then presumably decided she wasn’t going to perform such an intimate act in front of a crowd of tourists and led him purposefully behind the nearest bush for the moment of passion, before they collapsed down again, legs akimbo, for another half hours rest.

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They would go on like this for several days, longer than we were prepared to sit and watch them, so we gave them their privacy (or at least left them with the 3 other cars that were watching), and headed back to camp for tea and medals. What a brilliant thing to witness.

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