The Lion doesn’t sleep tonight

Today’s blog is from STA Travel’s Anthony Savery; a former professional football coach who hung up his boots and decided to take a trip around the world. Having spent a year going from Cape Town to Buenos Aires and many a destination in between, he returned to London to become STA Travel’s INDI Africa Specialist

Before departing London, I watched the Lion King movie to get me in the mood for my time in Africa. Ordinarily I would rather gouge my eyes out with a pair of rusty scissors than listen to Elton John, but you just can’t help singing along with the film’s catchy tunes. After the credits rolled I was ready to go searching for Simba.

One of the primary reasons I wanted to visit Southern Africa was to go on safari again. I have been especially lucky on previous ventures to have seen most of the major animals including rhinos, lions and leopards. However, wild dogs remained elusive. Doesn’t sound too exciting maybe but to each their own.

On the road going west towards Namibia from Botswana, our overland truck suddenly screeched to a halt, jerking awake those who were asleep and spilling the beverages of those who had been hitting the booze early. By the side of the road stood a pack of wild dogs sheltering in the shade. With distinctive yellow and black markings, these aren’t your loveable household canines; given half a chance they would rip your face off. But, to see them in the wild with their young puppies, was a beautiful and extremely rare sight. Shortly after, the pack crossed the road behind us and disappeared into the trees on the other side.

We soon said goodbye to Botswana and crossed into Namibia, where we spent the first night in the capital city of Windhoek before moving onto Etosha National Park. Having set up our tents for the night, we were informed that our campsite had a watering hole where animals frequently visit if they are feeling a touch thirsty. It was a picturesque setting with a few acacia trees and even a little grandstand to watch the performance. Ok it wasn’t the Stretford End at Old Trafford but it did the job.

In the afternoon we embarked on our first game drive in Etosha, and what a drive it turned out to be! Within minutes we’d added zebra, ostriches, wildebeest and springboks to our list and, all in all, we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. Then the truck sped up. Must be something worth racing like a maniac for, I hoped. And sure enough not far up the road, under a tree by the side of the road, lay four sleeping lions.

The day was to get even better. “It can’t get better”, I hear you cry. Well, it does. Believe me. The watering hole at the camp was to be the location of one of the greatest moments of my life. As the sun dropped down, an array of shades of orange and red lit up the sky and reflected in the water below. At the edge of the watering hole, a dazzle of zebra were drinking with a few pesky little jackals scampering around nearby. And then out of the shadows, an elephant appeared. A large bull silhouetted beautifully against the background made it’s way slowly across the rocks to the water. I stood transfixed.

Part two of the watering hole soap opera unfolded the following night. A storm was brewing and all was still, until a deep, loud noise cut the silence. A few people turned their heads in bewilderment wondering what it was. It certainty wasn’t the sound of a cat. Or was it? Then the noise came again. It had to be. Didn’t it? And sure enough a local guide confirmed that it was indeed what we all thought and hoped it was. Yes, a dog. Only kidding. It was a lion. A male lion roaring his heart out to warn others he was in the area. Nice of him to let others know to stay the hell out of his way or risk being part of tonight’s menu. He roared a few more times. We waited and waited but he never showed up. Bloody drama queen.

And so without a sighting of his majesty, it was time to hit the hay, or rather the thin, brown mattress under zipped canvas. I stirred in my sleep during the night and heard him roar again at around 1.30am. Makes a change from being woken up by police sirens in London. I fell back asleep smiling. A lion lullaby.

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