The people who like to visit game parks can usually be pigeon-holed into two categories. Those who like to meander and take their time; stop, wait and enjoy the scenery, and those who rush around hoping that they increase their chances of sightings by trying to be in as many different locations in a day as is humanly possible.
We are most definitely in the former category. We love to park off on the side of the road, alongside a river or dam and listen to what’s going on around us: a twig snapping here, an unusual bird-song there. Armed with telephoto lens on camera, several pairs of binoculars (the girls have their own sets too!), a bird identification guide-book, crisps, cookies, a few sweets and plenty of water, we can sit for some time and wait for animals to come into our view.
The only thing that might disrupt our tranquil past-time is the need for a bathroom. It’s not as though you can hide behind a bush around here; you never know what might be lurking just out of sight! Just because you can’t see the animal doesn’t mean that there isn’t something out there that might just be watching you!
The good thing about being a patient game-spotter is that other folks, like you, tend to pull up alongside you and enquire as to what you have seen and trade a few sighting locations. One couple did just that; asking us if we had seen some lions. When we responded in the negative they asked us if we wanted to, and gave us precise directions to a location about 15km away from where we were. We followed the instructions to the letter, stopped the vehicle, switched off the engine, got out the binos and started scanning.
A few other cars were in the same location. All of us were hunting for lions. There had been a sighting, much earlier that morning, of a pride of up to 8 lions sitting on top of a granite hill, less than 100m from the roadside. It was now early afternoon and the chances of a cat sitting on rocks in full sunlight were zero. No-one who was there could see anything. One by one, the other cars drove off. Other cars came and went – also having been informed about the sighting, but perhaps not having the time to really search for the big cats. Eventually we were the only ones there still scanning; looking under trees, in crevices between the rocks and anywhere where we might think a lion would be chilling out. We had time to kill before we could check in at our next camp, Skukuza. This was also the last day we had with the girls, so we were quite keen to “tick the box” for them with a lion sighting.
An hour or so later (told you we had some patience) my husband saw an ear twitch, then a tail flick. SPOTTED! Got you! On top of the hill, under some cactus-type tree were 2 lions, snoozing in the shade. Once you see them, you can automatically zoom in and suddenly we could see 4! To be fair, the photos show 2 lions clearly, the third is lying on the rocks just above the head of the closest lion. The fourth is to the group’s left behind the two rocks: a bit trickier to spot, more like a silhouette really.
More cars came, and we were able to point the lions out to the occupants. The most often asked question was “How on earth did you spot them up there?” My husband’s answer, which got a fair amount of air-play then, and still does 😉 “It’s like fishing: you just have to be prepared to wait…”