These are not our stories; they are the experiences of our guide, Tom. But we thought two of his encounters with lions last year were so incredible that we had to share them with you!
When we first entered Tarangire National Park, we were met by scores of impala. They look like small deer with a distinctive black “M” on their butt, which is why our guide refers to them as McDonald’s food. They make a quick and tasty meal for McDonald’s customers, or lions. We spent a large part of our safari chasing “McDonald’s customers.”
After leaving a campground, Tom was in the habit of telling us about the “dramas” that occurred in the area over the past little while. Thankfully he refused to recount any tales before we had moved on!
In the Serengeti we stayed in a place Tom calls “the adventure campground” because it is at the centre of all the animals. It was here where he found himself in the awkward position of coming between a baby lion and its mother.
During last year’s rainy season, a fellow guide and cook’s tent had blown over. They couldn’t stay in the tent because it was too wet, so Tom and his cook (Omari) invited them to spend the night in his.
Tom and Omari settled in for the night, and later on the second cook made his way to the tent. Expecting his guide to come soon, he left the zipper open at the bottom to avoid disturbing the others. What he didn’t realize was that his colleague had already sought refuge in another tent with more room, so no one ended up zipping up the bottom of the tent.
Now when it rains, animals sometimes seek shelter under the awning of a tent fly. All manner of animals. So it was not surprising when Tom heard a lion lie down with a thud in front of the door.
Sometime in the middle of the night Tom was awakened by the second chef’s leg lying on top of his. He pushed it off, but it suddenly appeared back on his. He pushed it off again with a bit of irritation, but it appeared yet again.
This went on for some time when suddenly Tom heard the lioness outside murmur. She was calling out to a member of her pride. From inside the tent, he heard a responding call.
All three humans sat up abruptly and had a frantic but silent conversation about how to get the very comfortable cub out of the tent and back to his mama before she became concerned. They hatched a plan that saw one person rip open the zipper at lightening speed while the other two pushed as hard as they could to get the bundle of fur outside.
Luckily it worked. The cub was not at all pleased to be ejected from his warm and cosy spot into the wet fur of his mama. He spent the night scratching the door trying to find the opening that had worked before. The cub was not yet old enough to have sharp claws, and they were no match for the tough Australian tents that our safari company uses.
Just a few weeks later into the rainy season in the same campground, a zebra decided to take refuge under someone’s awning. The zebra likely thought it would be safe from predators with tons of humans around.
Sadly, lions again were again seeking shelter from the rain under campers’ tent flies. The appearance of a quick meal already lying on the ground was too much temptation. They pounced and began eating their windfall.
Now zebras take some time to eat, and humans simply cannot make an appearance if they don’t want to wind up with the same fate. All the campers had to stay in their tents until something could be done.
A guide managed to radio to the rangers for help. But in true Tanzanian fashion the attending ranger’s vehicle broke down when he was still very far from the camp.
Luckily Tom managed to radio a friend nearby, who then showed up with a number of other guides. They managed to shoo the lions away long enough to allow everyone to get into the kitchen. The zebra carcass was then towed far enough away to make packing up safe.
So what did we learn from all of this? Don’t go on safari in the rainy season!!!