13th September – Nyamepi, Mana Pools
13th September – A close shave to being nominated for the Darwin Award
Today is our final full day in the park so we want to make the most out of it! First thing in the morning we go and look for the mating lions but they aren’t in the usual spot anymore which is quite disappointing. While driving around we stop to watch a delightful ellie family and meet up with some people we had seen before at other sightings.
Soon we encounter the rest of the pride of the mating lions near Mucheni – about 11 of them which we could see. They were sleeping and moving sleeping places, following the shade from tree to tree.
At some point they move behind a ridge and they disappear from view. If it was any other park we would just leave, but this is Mana Pools where one is allowed to walk unescorted by the guides. So now it was time to decide, shall we shall be the scaredy cats and cut our losses or follow them on foot? We make a quick assessment – some other people are already following them, the lions are used to seeing people on foot, there is sufficient cover in the form of trees and we know what to do if the worst happens – which is simply do not run.
Of course being who we are we wait a bit and follow them on foot, they are probably just sleeping on the other side of the ridge right? So we start walking towards the ridge very slowly and silently. When we get close to the ridge two things happen at once: first, the dreadful realization that two lions had been left behind and had not followed the others and were lounging behind a tree, very close, very alert and eyeing us with suspicion. But incredibly that is not our biggest problem. Before we could even process that new piece of information all hell breaks loose and of a sudden another young lion burst into running just meters away on the other side of us, chasing a couple of warthogs. The other lions – the ones left behind – join in the pursuit, so we end up between two factions of a lion hunt, and we know this pride is hungry.
Now is the test – it is one thing to know what do and one thing to keep still and not run when every fiber of your body is just screaming for you to run away. But we manage to remain frozen on the spot. I was in between two groups of people and very tempted to tip toe and join the closest one, but I thought it best to remain motionless. I make sure to keep an eye on all lions so that they know I am aware of them, but not look them directly in their eyes in case they see it as a threat. After a few seconds the lions give up the chase and head back our way, empty handed and hungry. They eye us with bemusement. They are between us and the car … excellent – all that was going through my head is that we will be the perfect candidates for the Darwin award now if things go badly.
In all the kerfuffle the big male shows up quite close to us thinking that the commotion had produced lunch. When he realizes no lunch is to be had yet he too settles to eye us with bemusement and disappointment.
Eventually they all walk by us, one by one and go back to sleep behind the ridge. When we are sure they are *all* sleeping again we tiptoe back to the car, very much full of adrenaline and very much aware that we got a lot more excitement than we bargained for. Even the daredevil zimbo photographers in the other group told us not many people get to experience anything similar!
Still very much on an adrenaline high, we head off towards Nyamepi for lunch. We have a lovely spot right on the the Zambezi and the campsite is not as crowded as I had expected. Being in the relative safety of Nyamepi we decide that we will have our last dinner in Zimbabwe at night so we decide to make pancakes for lunch. We are not used to the pan we have have with our camping equipment so we make a disaster out of the pancakes, burnt on the outside and raw on the inside, but a splatter of lots of melted chocolate and tinned strawberries and voila they become edible.
We chill out a bit and then we set off for our afternoon game drive. We find the same lions as in the morning, still sleeping in the same spot and we watch them from behind a tree, again on foot.
We also try to look for the wild dogs but they are long gone, so we return back to the lions. No silly incidents this time. In the evening we make some nice pasta and then join the our new Zimbo friends + 1 south african for some drinks and stories. We have a great time and some awesome G&T’s!