Lions at Dinner
I wish this story had pictures, but it was night and I rarely bring my camera to dinner. I hope you can use your imaginiation to recreate the scene.
Dinner began like any other. Darkness fell. We met for a drink, talked about our day; shared stories and many laughs. But our chatting fell quiet when we were interupted by the hair-raising growl of a lion. The elongated ggggrrrrrrroaaaahh blew across the night towards us. We stood instantly with torches searching the ground. Nothing.
There have been lions mating near camp for a few days now, and if you’ve been lucky enough to watch a ‘honeymooning’ couple, you know that each coupling ends with a nip of the neck and growl from the male typically met by a snarl from the female. Anytime we hear lions – be it at meal times or just when we’re socialising – they tend to stop conversations. Their roar is so quintisential of the bush experience we’ve come to know that we all fall silent and soak in the moment.
But tonight was different. As we chatted away the lion’s growl silenced us as we tried to distinguish just how far it was from our table. We searched the darkness with our torches again and again, but nothing penetrated beyond the grasses. Twenty minutes later as we finished our first course, we heard the growl again, this time followed by twenty seconds of roaring. Wow. I normally hear the roar from a distance at night. This was close and it gave me goosebumps.
Again during our main course, and just as we finished dessert, the growling repeated. And each time we gave a respectful pause. The mystery of where the lions were was exhiliarting. To feel so entrenched in the nature around us. Never did it feel unsafe, although my heart surely skipped a beat… or ten.
As we left the table we continued to look for them. Then finally we caught a glimpse of them. Just in a clearing, maybe 150m from where we had sat, a female sunk her head low as a full maned lion – from the now Two Musketeers – rested regally, waiting for the next interval to begin. As though on cue, they performed their courtship as the six of us looked on, amazed to witness this spectacle at night. Although seeing lions mate is not a new experience for me, listening to them in the dark of night at such a close proximity is a memory which will not soon be forgotten.