The previous night’s encounter with cheetah, hyenas and lion was still fresh in our minds. We were so incredibly grateful for the privilege of witnessing that unbelievable scene and just took the rest of our bush drives with a sense of just truly savoring every little experience that came our way. On our second to the last drive of the safari, on our third afternoon at Singita, we had driven by a river in search of cape buffalo with no luck but got a small memory of elephants instead, we saw zebra, more giraffes (Mrs. MM’s favorite) and noticed a radio call had us speeding up towards the same area we had seen the cheetah the night before.
Literally at one end of the vast lawn in front of Singita Castleton (a six suite home previously used by the owners of Singita but now rented out to families or groups of guests — my likely way to spend some of my lottery winnings, if I were ever so lucky) was the lion from the night before, apparently deep in slumber. Once lions feed on several kilos of meat, they understandably go into a kind of food coma I gather, but you still don’t want to get on their bad side.
This solitary lion was probably kicked out of a pride, and on it’s own. Probably a little older, wounds on its face suggest a recent fight, plus it had to now fend for itself. We joined another Rover already at the scene, and they had been waiting over half an hour for the lion to wake up. It was late afternoon and we were told as soon as the sun set, the lion would likely stir. We kept a respectful distance, some 15 meters away, and we all observed the lion with binoculars.
We watched calmly for 20-30 minutes, the first Rover decided to move on, and when the sun set, the temperatures started to fall quickly. Our guide whispered that the lion wasn’t really asleep, more “drowsy” perhaps and as if to confirm this point…
…the lion actually opened an eye, had a quick look at us, and closed his eyes again.
Then his next move was just too funny for words. He lifted his legs, airing out his gonads and Mrs. MM remarked that perhaps he was just cooling himself off! This is exactly what our labradors at home love to do when they want their stomachs rubbed. Wait, this is a LION in the WILD!
We took a few photos, and the lion peered at us again.
He started to stretch…
…and a hyena screeching in the distance seemed to wake the lion fully. Louis, our tracker said the lion was probably thinking he might have a repeat of the night before, an easy meal by stealing it from a hyena…
Either jaw-stretching exercises or a big yawn.
Finally, he gets up and heads in the general direction of the hyena squeal a kilometer or more away.
One of my favorite photos, so majestic.
The lion walked up to a tree, then started scratching his claws on the bark of the tree.
I am not sure why they do this, but to the layman observing this, it was the equivalent of limbering up and sharpening one’s knives before killing and cooking dinner. :)
The lion continued to lumber on…
…stopping every once in a while to listen…
…then continue on, paying no attention to us whatsoever.
This is HOW CLOSE the lion was to our parked Rover. It passed us on several occasions, as our guide repositioned the vehicle for a better vantage point.
When we snapped this shot, I could have literally reached out and patted the lion on his head. Seriously.
One more stop, then he continued on.
We followed him for some 20-30 minutes until he laid down to rest on a bluff of sorts, and darkness set in. This is him looking up at another Rover that came to watch him as well.
Not sure if he ever got another easy meal that night.