Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Scary Lion Encounter

         Today, we woke up at 3:30 in the morning to go hide behind a rock outcropping and wait for lions. We drove in in the dark and heard two lions roaring. Words just can't explain the strength of their roar. Most people would go the opposite direction from the trembling sound, but we're hunting them, so we started walking towards the lion roars. I was terrified! I couldn't see a thing, but we left the truck and continued to walk towards them.

When I was a firefighter we got in some scary situations, but immediately recognized the danger and got out. I felt like this compared to walking into a wildfire without any safety zones. Nothing about it felt right. We continued to walk in and came to the little overlook on top of the rocks. We inched our way ever-so-slowly to peek over the edge, but saw nothing. There was no movement and I tried to calm my breath. The lions roared again and it sounded like they were right below us, but we still saw nothing.
Daylight approached, but we still saw nothing and heard the roaring right below us.  We waited about ten more minutes without hearing a roar. I thought we would just hang out and wait or maybe leave, but our guide decided that we should go down and check out the situation. He thought the lions might be hiding near a little dried up creek bed that was below the rocks. I don't think I've ever had a red flag pop up in my head so brightly before. But, it's my job to document and the Professional Hunter (PH/Guide) has hunted many lions and knows what he's doing, so I didn't question his decision. The PH, Tim, and two trackers were all in front of me, so if a lion attacked they would either shoot it or I would outrun them. That was my logic at least.
We continued to walk to the creek bed, but saw no movement. It seemed like the lions had to be right there, but their roars were so powerful that they must have carried over the hill and fooled us. We built a blind about 50 yards from the bait, so in the afternoon we could wait for them to come in. The blind was small, so it was just the PH, Tim, and me sitting in there, and the trackers waited back at the truck.  We waited for a couple of hours and then got a call on the radio from the trackers. They said two lions were walking right towards them. Some bait was left in the back of the truck, so the lions must have smelled that rather than the bait we hung. The trackers’ voices got more worried and they were calling us frequently, saying the lions were feet from the truck. The trackers don't have guns, so they must have been on the roof of the car with machetes trying to shoo away the lions. We hurried out of the blind and rushed over to the truck. I felt that this was a bad idea, but we needed to help the trackers.
Once we got to the truck there were no lions around. They must have just left. I tried to slow down my heart rate when the PH spotted one of the lions coming back towards us. Tim pulled up his gun and was ready to shoot, I got on the lion with the camera, but the PH told him to wait. The lion looked too young and just ran right past us. I thought he was going to attack, but it turned out he just wanted to go find the other bait. I relaxed for a second, but the PH saw the other lion running towards us. Tim was ready to shoot, but yet again the lion was too young and was just trying to catch up with the first one.
It was dark and too late to film anymore, so I thought we would head back to camp. But our PH wanted to get another look at the lions to make sure he made the right decision. We drove up on them in the dark so he could shine the headlights on them. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this was not a good idea. Even the trackers looked worried because you don't want to mess with lions after dark. The PH finally decided to give up on them for the night, so we drove back to camp.

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