Camp fire evening
The safari team decided on an evening around the camp fire, sharing and comparing ranger stories. I was summoned by the guys with a loud knock on my door. I grabbed my long-sleeved fleece and flung the door open just as they were about to bang on the door again. As I stood in the doorway wanting to lecture them on how to be gentle with the door, one of the rangers commented on the fleece in my hand. "It's summer Rika, what are you doing with a fleece?" Without thinking I replied "woman's intuition". There and then I decided on the ranger story that I would share around the camp fire.
Afternoon game drive
Initially I had planned to look for a leopard during our afternoon game drive but for some strange reason I kept thinking about the lion pride. I decided to follow my intuition and we went out looking for the Southern Pride. It wasn't long before we found tracks of the pride heading south. Rondy, my tracker, had his eyes fixed on the road and his hand guided us in the direction of where the lion tracks were heading. I couldn't shake the feeling that something was going to happen, hence my intense scanning of the bush while following Rondy's hand signals. He broke my focus when he signalled me to stop. I got out and together we assessed the tracks. There were tracks on top of the lioness's tracks and they belonged to wild dogs. I informed the other rangers and it wasn't long before we had two rangers following up on the wild dog tracks while Rondy and I continued with our goal of finding the pride of lions.
Even though their tracks were both on and off the road they were fairly easy to follow. The spoor led us straight to the pride relaxing on an open area only a few meters off the road. Only two of the seven cubs were with the lionesses. With there only being the two cubs, we noticed that the youngsters made their rounds getting attention from each and every female and they enjoyed it. The females were relaxed and grooming themselves. Something made me look up and over my shoulder. For a split second I had to look twice. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me because there they were - and the lionesses were unaware of them! A pack of wild dogs appeared from within the thickets and were playfully heading towards us - and unknowingly towards the pride of lions. It felt like I was watching a tennis match looking from the lions to our left, to the wild dogs to our right. With great concern for the safety of the wild dogs we watched as they came closer to the danger that awaited them on the other side of our vehicle.
One of the lionesses sniffed the air and another stood up. The wild dogs stopped and suddenly members of the pack joined in, doing acrobatic leaps into the air trying to determine the danger ahead. It looked like the lions got first sight of their enemies and approached the wild dogs with confidence while the wild dogs nervously leaped and bounced, still uncertain of what lay ahead. The moment the two enemies saw each other, the lions attacked while the wild dogs dashed in all directions, running for their lives. It was as if the lions knew they had the upper hand, and after an effortless chase they returned to the open area while roaring the proclamation of their territory.
The lions had just settled down when I got that feeling again to look over my shoulder. Surely the wild dogs wouldn't return? Rondy uttered the words "hyenas" just as I glanced back again. It was probably the earlier noise that caused the hyenas to investigate. Their body language was different, as if they knew that they were approaching the lion's den. The hyenas got closer and closer and finally their eyes met those of the lions. Now I could see why they call them "eternal enemies". The lions sprinted towards the hyenas with all their power. Some hyenas attempted to mock the lions but the earlier meeting with the wild dogs already had the lions in their defensive mode ready for the fight. Needless to say that the hyenas, as did the wild dogs, left with their tails between their legs while the lions returned to the open area for a second time.
As per usual there were enough ranger stories to take us well into the night and I got to share my story only later that evening. Circled around the fire we were warm in front but we could feel the cold evening air creeping closer. As I finished my story I felt a chill creep up my spine. I reached for my fleece and draped it over my shoulders. As I looked up I looked the ranger who had made the comment about my fleece straight in the eyes and said "woman's intuition" - just like that day when we were tracking the lions.