Lucky escape from sleeping lions

Told in his own words, this story is about tracking a pride of lions, that then reversed the direction…!

by Honest Sangweni, Game Ranger at Rockfig Lodge, Madikwe.

“As I first came into Madikwe, being an enthusiastic (Safari) guide with lots of experience in the Lowveld. It was on the morning game drive, I had UK guests and I was asking them about how they come to Madikwe and how did they get to know Rockfig lodge in Madikwe.

They began to narrate everything and spoke all the good things about Madikwe as well as why they chose Rockfig lodge. And they mentioned one thing, that is, being in South Africa they had visited quite a few lodges, but hadn’t seen the lions yet. 

Being a good guide as well as a good tracker, I said to myself, this is an opportunity to display my skills, to find them Tau. Tau is the Tswana word for lion.

Then I head out on a game drive with them and the intention of finding the lions, as it was my guests first priority. 

We drove for about an hour and a half, there was no sign of any, all we saw was plenty of elephants, rhinos and all the game that graze on the plains. 

In my mind, I told myself that I need to find those lions. 

We drove for another 20mins, then boom, fresh tracks of the whole pride together, it was indeed very fresh. 

I jumped out of the car, checked all the possible signs that tells the tracks were fresh. But alas, it was indeed about 20min ago since the pride walked past this area. 

I explained to my guests about everything, and told them that because it was already a warm day, the lions could not have gone very far from there. Because of that, I needed to walk a bit and check which way the tracks had gone, and probably track them through the block if they happen to go into that block. 

I checked, and the tracks were really heading into the block. I followed the tracks for about 5 min. 

The actual fact is that I did not realize the lions had already seen me a long way back, because the sickle bush was a bit thick. I could not see as far as 20 meters away from me. 

So as I walked checking the tracks, all of a sudden, I heard a deep growl. As I raised my head to check, there comes a female lioness at a full speed. About 40 to 50km/h. 

Coming towards me, and with the help of muscle memory, I realise I don’t need to run, instead I must make myself bigger than her, and start shouting loud “Voetsak, Voetsak”, (a very forceful South African word for “go away”!)

This was what the guest’s heard! 

The female lioness charged and stood on two feet, as she was so angry, I keep on shouting “Voetsak, Voetsak.” But it is very important, you don’t give your back to the lion. I look eye to eye to it, and never forget to make myself look big. 

It goes on for a while, and then finally, she gives up and lies down. And because it was charging me, I had to retreat in a different direction away from the vehicle. Then it takes about 10 minutes as I navigate myself back to the car. 

My guests thought I am dead.  And they were standing up on the car to check if they can pick me up in the lions mouth, but at that time that’s when I said to my guests, “Hello guys, are you OK? ”. 

They were relieved, and I began to narrate all that happened and assure them that I have found the lions. 

I took them to the lion sighting and then called all the other vehicles to come and enjoy the sighting as well. 

One of the ladies on my vehicle said she realized that Africa is not for sissies. It’s a survival of the fittest. 

That day was my very first Madikwe welcome and I began to realize Madikwe lions behaviour. 

This story will remind me of the Rockfig Lodge for my entire life. “

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