The lodge I worked at in the Manyeleti had no fence around the entire lodge and staff village which allowed EVERY kind of animal to wander through, and oh boy how they liked to walk through…
At least once a week we had a young bull elephant that would come and play havoc with the guests. He would always arrive 30min before the afternoon game drive was meant to leave. He would walk past the rooms and not allow the guests to come out their rooms. He would then walk to the parked game viewers and stand there so no one could get into the vehicles. He was known to charge the guides when we would try get him to go away.
One afternoon he gave me a full on charge when I asked him politely to “go away” (maybe it wasn’t that polite). He gained so much speed that when he tried to stop he skidded on the sand. When he thought he was close enough to me he flicked his trunk and I felt the wind brush against my face. This became a regular staged performance. He would never do it when the guests weren’t watching. He loved an audience. I still think that he didn’t like us seeing other animals; he was the one and only star of the Manyeleti.
Now to the gauntlet! This was a path about 50m long between the staff village and the kitchen with next to no lights. I was walking back to my room after having dinner with my guests. The elephants had come to drink out of the pool while we were eating, so I knew they were around. As I left the kitchen I found them with my torch about 30m away. This was far enough away for me to safely walk to my room. As I was walking I made sure to keep a close eye on them just in case they decided they didn’t like me too much. When I was about 20m away from my room I heard a piece of grass break behind me. I stopped and shone my torch behind me. About 6m behind me was a young female leopard in full stalking posture. Luckily soon as the light hit her eyes she got a fright and ran away. It didn’t hit me what actually just happened until I sat on my bed and couldn’t control my shaking hands.
One night I decided that I didn’t feel like dinner and had an early night. I woke up at 12am and decided I was hungry, so I was going to quickly walk to the kitchen. I knew that earlier in the night there were two male lions (Gijima males) at the waterhole in front of the lodge. These males would VERY rarely come through the camp, so I thought they would have moved off. I grabbed my torch and started walking to the kitchen still very alert just in case. I must have been exactly smack bang in the middle of the path between my room and the kitchen when I heard the 2 males start roaring.
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You know straight away that they are close when the ground beneath you starts vibrating. I quickly raised my torch to where the body shaking noise was coming from and there they were 15m away from me, sitting up roaring and staring straight at me. As many of you know, golden rule with lions is to never run. I stood dead still(even though every bit of my body was saying run!!), after they stopped roaring the first time they both got up and walked about 2 mcloser to me and started roaring again. Soon as they stopped the 2nd time I shouted as loud as I could “go away” (again maybe it wasn’t that polite).
Luckily for me there was a lone bull elephant about 70m behind them that got their attention, and they turned around and walked away. It felt like that whole incident took about 2 hours when in fact it was only about 2min. Very humbling experience.
To be continued…