"growing up catching tail"

Growing up is never easy, even if your father is the "king of the jungle", but growing up catching tail is definitely a great way to do so.

The guests arrived back from their evening game drive and started making their way to the reception area where I waited to welcome them. I could barely complete my question when they exploded with excitement about their new discovery whilst on their game drive. There were new lion cubs on the Sabi Sabi reserve and this brought with it a lot to look forward to. The exciting lion cub news was contagious and Wim, the safari manager, decided that the staff should share in this excitement. The news about the staff game drive spread as quickly as the report about the lion cubs. From time to time lodge staff are given the opportunity to participate in what the guests experience during a game drive. I joined the Sabi Sabi team very recently as a receptionist and every day was filled with new experiences. Going on my first educational staff drive was an introduction into becoming part of the Sabi Sabi family traditions and I was looking forward to it.

I wanted to be as close as possible to the animals and tactfully waited for everyone to take their positions before I made my move and claimed my seat on the side of the game drive vehicle. During Wim's safari briefing I took mental note of everything he explained and it wasn't long before he turned the key and we were off on my first game drive. The bushveld slowly passed by me like a canvas on a roller. I could feel my eager eyes scanning the bush and open areas for any form of life. Although we knew that Wim was tracking the lions he made time to stop and explain the breeding behaviour of the yellow billed hornbill and the social structure of the dwarf mongoose. Coming around a corner we all spotted the rock that turned out to be a territorial rhino bull when he lifted his head and gracefully continued patrolling his territory. It was my first of the big five. It was when we sat and watched an elephant herd that Wim noticed a hyena scampering past on the nearby road looking as if he was frantically following something we could obviously not see or smell. Apologetically Wim cut our elephant sighting short and steered us back to the road in order to get to the hyena which was already way ahead of us. Wim was determined to catch up with him and it wasn't long before we found ourselves hot on its heels like true scavengers hungry for the action.

lion cubs with lioness at sabi sabi

After a short while of following the hyena we realized that he was also not sure what he was looking for but his nose and natural instincts were in control. The hyena raised the suspicion, but the tree covered in vultures confirmed it. There had to be a kill somewhere; but where? We came to a halt, as did the hyena. He lifted his nose to get a better sniff and as we mimicked him we could all, for the first time, smell the stench that drove him to investigate. It was the breeze that swept through us that gave away the position of the kill. Our noses, like that of the hyena lead us to the edge of a riverbed. And there in the coolness of the shade was a lioness with her five cubs on the remains of a kudu. I couldn't believe my eyes. We were less than ten meters away from the lioness and cubs and I was there on the side of the vehicle watching their every move, not missing a single playful moment. Of all the scenes imprinted in my mind I will never forget the playfulness with which the one cub attacked his mother's tail. To the cub it was a tuft of black teasing him but the mother knew that with little effort she was keeping his natural predator instincts sharp and therefore endured the cub's sharp teeth digging into her tail.

Both the cub and I learned a lot that day and I realized that growing up isn't as easy as just catching a tail.

by: Clariza Wilson (Bush lodge receptionist)

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