With the sun setting, you sip at an ice cold beverage surrounded by friends, with a sense of accomplishment and awe…another day in Africa ends.
The sundowner tradition on safari is one which goes a long way back and is taken very seriously among those in the industry and even more so by the guests who are on holiday. It is almost a must to appreciate the moment everyday whilst out in the bush with a drink. But as a safari guide often we find ourselves in a predicament where we are busy viewing an animal as the sun is about to set and we are torn between staying with the animal or leaving to view the sunset from a safe high point. I found myself in this scenario a few days ago where we managed to do both…although we probably should have stayed in the car!
Myself and Gesa were out for a game drive with a group of guests in the Tuli Block in Botswana and our mission was so travel far north in the area in search of the elusive cheetahs that roam the more open areas. After a long hot drive of rough rocky terrain, we found ourselves in the hotspot where our local guide informed us he has been finding them over the past few weeks, so you can imagine our excitement and concentration to try and find our target species!
“Wait what is that?!” says Mark our guide as he slams the breaks and the dust engulfs the car.
“It’s a lion!” replies Gesa.
Not exactly what we were looking for but its more than welcome! After what was a fairly slow gamedrive, up until this point, we were very delighted to find a predator, especially a big male like this!
His behaviour was that typical of a lion that is starting to get active, constant yawning, getting up and moving a few meters only to settle again for more yawns. We knew he was about to go find some water as it has been a fairly hot day up until now. However the sun was also setting as this was happening, so we decided to take the decision out of our hands and ask our guests..
“Do you guys want to follow the big guy or go watch the sunset?”
We decided to stay however the male was making his way straight for the river bed which just happens to be the boundary of the property so we couldn’t follow him much longer. So Mark came up with what sounded like a brilliant idea at the time.
“Why don’t we have sundowners on the riverbank and watch as he walks down it?”
“Awesome” we all said, eager to have what sounds like the perfect compromise. So, we all jump out with the male now about 200 meters into the riverbed, a safe distance for us to stretch the legs.
Out comes the beers and cold drinks and as the chatter starts to pick up I hear one of the guests ask
“What is that?”
I look at the top of the ridge 10 meters behind us, and would you believe it, we are being watched by a lioness…All that is visible is the tips of her ears as she flicks them to chase the flies away.
“OK guys everyone grab your drinks and get in the car quickly!” I said in what probably was a surprised and serious tone.
Shortly after, we realized there was more than one, infact it was a mother with 3 sub-adults all sitting on the hill looking down at us, probably a bit confused as to what we silly humans are doing. Once we hopped into the vehicle however they gained the confidence to walk down and we sat with fairly elevated heart rates as we watched the 4 of them walk the same path as the male. Into the distance they went for a drink, but this time we decided to stay in the car and not stretch the legs again. A most wise choice.
At no point were the lions aggressive or interested in us as a meal, but rather curious watching us. For a moment, the tables turned for the lions as they were the ones fascinated by our strange human behaviours.
I think this is one of those experiences that our guests won’t forget anytime soon, and it definitely is one that only Africa can provide…