WILDLIFEWEDNESDAY: LIONS IN KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
I look at this picture and remember, “this is the most awesome lion sighting I’ve ever had”. I was cruising in the little gas saver I had rented at first light in Kruger National Park, South Africa. I was driving into the sun, and it was in the dry season so all the leaves are off the bushes and the grasses are dried out. I saw a lot of baboons in the road ahead and didn’t think to much of it until I saw a few lined up on the roadside staring like they were watching the sunrise. I thought “wow, these baboons like more than stealing our candy, they even admire the sunrise”! As I got closer, I could see they were nervous and running and barking alarm calls which usually means leopard, lion, or maybe hyena! I come to a stop and the large male baboons are calling so loud its has me nervous. Then I see why.
This male lion, in his prime, was everything you would expect a lion to be. He walked out of the bushes and across a dry water hole. All the baboons were near the trees and had their escape plans all worked out if he came their way. A kudu was on full alert in an area she couldn’t see him yet. He walked on not even giving the baboons a look, almost like he was too good for them, they weren’t worth his time. For a moment as he came up the road bank from the waterhole it was silent and you could hear a pin drop. Those of you who know baboons know that silence and baboons never make it into the same sentence.
When he came up at eye level less than 5 yards away, he stopped, looked right into the car, right into my eyes for no more than 10 seconds, and off he went. Needless to say, I missed those pictures and I’m glad I did. Sometimes its better to put the camera down and absorb the moment. Once he started to walk again the baboons went mad, crazy, insane, however you want to describe chaos! It felt like every baboon within a mile was yelling and jumping through the bushes and trees. Some were using my vehicle as a safety between them and the lion! In this picture, he turned back toward the car as a lion roared over a mile away. He let out a couple low call “chuffs”, marked the ground with a scratch and disappeared into the bush. Once it was over I needed to come down off the adrenaline high of how awesome that was so I reclined the seat and sat for a minute and just thought about what had just happened! That. Was. Amazing!