The story of the circling Lion takes place in Botswana, January 2016. Kanana (my camp) is closed for maintenance. The day has been long and lots of hard work has been done, we are all tired so we knock off at 4pm. Emelda has made me dinner so I lock everything up and head home with a beer and my plate of food. Its been a good day, its about to get longer – and hairier.
Im sitting watching a movie on my laptop when Keletso calls me on the radio to let me know there is a lion in camp, he’s just waltzed through the staff village and heading my way, could I please come “sort him out”. Sure, on my way.
I’m not too keen on this sort of thing but the staff rely on me to keep them safe and who else is there to do this? And anyway, whats this “sort him out” supposed to mean? I get dressed again, put my belt kit on (stuff you never, ever, walk out the house without) and head off to the office. I unlock the rifle safe, grab the .375 and the newest looking bullets I can find and a set of keys for one of the Landcruisers – ready. Driving over to the staff village Im wondering whats going to be presented to me and how I’m going to “sort this out”. I certainly can not shoot the bugger, we’re in the Okavango so everything is protected and the DWNP would only condone me shooting the lion after its mauled someone half to death – that’s a good reason to shoot him and not before!
The staff village is deserted, most odd but not, considering the uninvited guest. Keletso meets me at his house and informs me the lion is on the periphery of the village in the grass, we drive over to that spot they saw him last and I grab the rifle (now loaded with the hammer down) and climb onto the bonnet to have a look see. Yup, there his is, we give each other a meaningful look – whats up buddy? Not much as I can see and he isn’t moving, he knows I’m human so by rights he should have moved pretty quickly after he saw me on the bonnet. I climb down, cock the rifle and start moving towards him using the most unsavoury vocabulary I can imagine in the hope he will take offense and find somewhere else to lay his head for the night. He moves off so I quickly jump into the Landcruiser to follow, I need to keep him in sight and make sure he has left the camp area for good.
He heads for the pool area and plonks himself on the deck, well, perhaps he needs a towel, a dry martini? I drive to within 10 meters of the edge of the deck and once again verbally abuse him, his mother and lineage…nope, stone deaf. OK, I’ll get out – breaking the shape of the vehicle usually makes them nervous as they then recognize us as the super predators we are and will move – he stares back completely unimpressed??? Whats with this lion? Why isn’t he afraid of my proximity or my presence? I cant get closer on foot so I decide to really piss him off, I drive right up to the deck, rev the engine and shout and finally he moves…and then Im worried. He’s hinka-punk, trap-in-die-gaaitjie, lame in one foot. This is a problem.
He moves out the pool area and off to the main lodge area, can’t have him finding a place in there for the night, fella, you have got to move on. I finally manage to maneuver so Im behind him and I can drive him away, into the bush, intimidating him with the vehicle. Its slow going, the leg, or the foot, is seriously hampering his ability to walk but he moves off into the bush with me pushing him all the while. After about 2 kilometers he slinks under a bush so thick I cant see him – what now? Well, 2 kilometers should do it for the day. I consider shooting a flare into the bush but worry the flare may cause a fire and that could threaten the lodge itself, not a wise move.
I’ll just leave him be. What more can he do? On the way back to the lodge I radio Keletso and let him know whats going on, he is very grateful but I warn him to let the staff know that with darkness only minutes away that no one is to be out after dark tonight.
By the time I get back to the lodge it is dark and no way am I walking from the office to my house – 200 meters – in the dark after I’ve locked the rifle away. At least I’ll have company in bed tonight. Back home I finish my movie and switch the laptop off. Dead silence reigns.
Wait, whats that crackling leaves outside? An elephant at the Marula tree? I open my door and peer through the screen door with my torch…uh oh. Guess who’s back? Yup, Mr Lion is back. What he’s doing here and how he found me isn’t hard to guess – follow the buggers scent that harassed me, I’ll have my own back! And injured lions will take the easiest prey they can find and what could be easier than a human? Not much. The circling lion is causing me a lot of worry.
I watch as he limps around the front of my house and disappears around the side. Shit. Where’s he going? To the side window, still moving, around the back, the other side window and around to the front, and he just keeps on going. After watching him circle for 30 minutes he stops and lies down in plain sight of my front door. This is NOT good. My house is a canvas tent, not much defence against sharp claws and a hungry belly. SHIT. I pull a chair over to the screen and we set about our vigil, I tape the torch to the side of my chair, the rifle across my lap and wait.
After 2 hours its midnight and I’m not keen on just the screen door between him and me. I close the door, close the tent windows and sit on my bed. Its worse now, all I can hear is leaves breaking and when I cant hear leaves crackling I imagine him getting ready to launch himself at the tent side. My imagination runs riot, I look up at the “rafters” that make up the structure and wonder if its high enough for me to be safe, I doubt it.
The darkness, minutes and hours crawl by. My back to the headboard, rifle across my lap, ready and waiting for the moment he plucks up the courage to try my meat out for a meal. I never nap, I never fall asleep and Im always listening. Finally, I can see the sky to the East start to lighten imperceptibly and I know this night will end.
When dawn finally does break and I can see enough I open the screen door…emptiness. I radio the office and tell the guides to come over with a vehicle to scout the area. When they arrive there is nothing, just footprints, hundreds of them all around my house.
That’s not a night I’m going to forget in a rush. Considering the camp is closed and the animals know it, the rifle stays with me for the rest of the week.
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To learn more about this incredible destination read all about the Okavango Delta.