I was asked the other day, “what has been my wildest experience?” an easy question I initially thought, until I really started to think about it.
At the time I been working in the bush for the past eight years and have guided in the Sabi Sands, Timbavati and the Serengeti. So it is understandably difficult to choose my "wildest experience" as I feel I have so many.
I have been charged - on foot - by almost all of the large animals, as well as having an unhappy black mamba with mouth agape no less than 30cm from my right leg.
One that comes to mind right now (more from the point of view of a good laugh afterwards) was when my tracker, Ephraim and I were tracking a pride of lions. We were following the tracks along a narrow animal path, where the grass was about knee height. Every now and then we would stop and listen for any warning sounds and reconfirm to each other that the tracks were still worth following. After a while the path zigzagged left around a fallen knob-thorn (Acacia nigrescens), where the crown of the tree just missed a termite mound. We moved around the knob-thorn, where to my utmost surprise, no less than 2 meters in front of us, was a lioness....fast asleep!
As I took a slow step back, Ephraim who had not seen her yet walked into me, making an “Oomph” noise. This was enough to wake the lioness. Her back was towards us and as she rolled over her eyes still opening, she slowly processed what was standing in front of her. It was like watching a cartoon character’s eyes that just keep growing and growing. She jumped to her feet, (my rifle was in my shoulder, ready), did a 180 degree turn and ran away grunting loudly. Just when I thought it was over, that loud grunting that she was making woke up the rest of the pride. They were sleeping on the other side of the termite mound where we were standing!
I went from aiming my rifle at the lioness - which had now disappeared, to now not being sure at which of the six lions facing me to aim. Before I knew it they had also high-tailed it in the same direction as the first one. Ephraim and I walked back to our vehicle, giggling nervously for the rest of the drive, to the amusement of our guests. We did find the pride a bit later, this time from the vehicle.