There is something quite remarkable about driving in an open 4×4 vehicle through the African bush. The vast landscape in this area, Hwange National Park Zimbabwe, seemingly untouched by humanity. I feel like a small and inconsequential part of this wild tapestry. Bumping along the dirt road, hardly more than a track, I am lulled into an almost meditative state. Peace pervades until we unexpectedly come on a pride of lions. We were nearing the end of our evening game drive, and dusk was pushing towards dark. Our guide spotted a lion. She was almost invisible in the half-light despite being very close to us. The awareness of unanticipated danger so close at hand stole my breath. Dixon, our guide, switched off the vehicle and we watched as the rest of the lions materialized- 8 or 9 in all. “They’re hungry,” he said, “see how thin they are. I don’t think they have eaten for a few days”. These lions were hunting. They were edgy, aware and on-the-move. They were intent on finding something to kill so that they could feed. So silent and camouflaged that they appeared ghost-like in the half-light. The darkness added to my sense of apprehension as I couldn’t keep track of all of them – some in front, some to the side and the male coming up behind us. We followed them for a way but Sensing their increasing agitation we decided to leave them to the hunt.
I can’t help but compare this pride with another one we had seen earlier in the day. The first pride, 11 strong, had recently killed two Wildebeest. Many had eaten their fill and were lying sleepy-satisfied with bellies meat-swollen. Some were still devouring the carcass while a cub played with the tail of the Wildebeest. While they were aware of us, they seemed mostly disinterested in their spectators.
In comparing the two prides, I have to conclude that the difference between the two was their intention. One was intent on sleeping off their enormous meal, and the other was on the hunt – predators in action. I was reminded that intention and focus makes a world of difference. While no lion is ever safe, I felt a lot more relaxed in the presence of those who had already eaten!