It took us all day to make our way to Third Bridge Camp in Moremi. A fabulous day of challenging our Landy through sand, water and mud, not to mention enjoying the wildlife. Especially coming upon a lazy pride of lions stuffed full after gorging on an African Water Buffalo. One still lingered chewing on the neck. No matter what, a lion in such close proximity raises the anxiety level and we rolled up our windows all the way and kept an eye on their movements.
We get to camp by sundown and settle in before dark. We’d been forewarned that the camp has no fences. Maybe the roof tent would be better! As the camping sites were full we’d been assigned to a large ground canvas tent with a marvelous all netting front for wildlife viewing. Being a hot evening we leave all the ‘windows’ open and zip the old zippers up as best possible.
Then it happened…
Sitting bolt upright from a dead sleep I frantically try to determine if I’m dreaming. No, there it is again; a deep throated, valley filling, bone chilling roar of a lion right here in our Okavango Delta camp. It is hot and here we are in a tent on stilts with just the bug screen door. I feel like I had been laid out on a buffet table for the taking. Our lack of options is apparent and every fear since childhood races through my mind.
Well, Margrit and I always did want to go out on flames… maybe this is it.
I start to get up to determine my options but Margrit grabs my hand tightly indicating, Don’t Move! The roaring continues but thankfully seems to not be coming closer. Then it quits. Oh man, this is worse. Where is he, probably staring licking its chops!
The bugs and frogs finally start in again, a good sign but every little sound is suspect! I decide to get under the sheet to change my delectable profile, as if it matters.
Quiet for a long time now… Is it over?
Then a soft but firm “huh, huh, huuuh” vibrates right next to the tent. Oh man this is it. Don’t move, don’t let your belly growl, and sneezing is out of the question. Then it’s absolutely quiet for a long time. Maybe I dreamed it. Bang there it is again, “huh, huh, huuuh”. It is not an aggressive sound… Maybe he’s asleep?!?
This goes on for a time as I fall in and out of sleep. Then the morning gratefully comes. “It is my birthday and I am alive!” Margrit and I laugh hard at all the crazy things that had gone through our minds.
But yes, there had been a lion in camp. How close is unclear. The “huh huh huuuh” was a hippo from the adjacent river who was also in camp. And rationally, wildlife including lions, leopard, elephants, baboon, hyena, giraffe, etc. frequent this defenseless camp often with very few incidents.
But I’ll tell you; being half asleep with that roar in my bones… it was the end.
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