Adventure in Tanzania, Africa 2013
Among a pride of nine Lions
I went to Tanzania with a goal, more really of a high hope, that I would get a chance to see big cats. I say this because when you go on safari you need to be happy with whatever Africa will give you, even if its your 207th zebra.
Africa... Africa was very generous this last trip!
On October 14, 2013, which was day 3 of my 2013 safari, we were on the east side of Silale Swamp on a park road that isn't heavily traveled. To be honest I wasn't expecting much from this drive because many of the previous trips down this particular road in 2012 didn't offer up much. But as I said previously… Africa was very generous this trip.
We had eaten our bush breakfast on the side of the hill that leads down into Silale Swamp about 9:30 in the morning and were making our way south down the road to the bottom of the swamp to cross over and go back up the west side. Our guide and what a fantastic guide he was, saw something under a tree and as we got closer we noticed that they were lions, SCORE! To even make this better as we got closer the group of lions grew from 3 to 5 and finally we counted 9. Nine lions all at once! Africa was being extremely generous this morning!
We stayed there for probably about a good solid ½ hour photographing, sketching and taking notes. All of the artists composing pieces in their heads for a painting that they would do back in the studio. Just a fantastic experience. We would take a grouping of photos from one angle, move the Land Cruiser to another vantage point and again start capturing more reference from this new angle. You knew when the lions had moved because this automatic buzzing sound would come from both vehicles. That was just plane fun to be part of.
Our guide tells us that we need to start making our way away from the lions and start moving on but as we are leaving we will circle the larger group of 5 to get one last volley of images. When doing this the lions would be on our right as we circled, I was on the right side. It’s midday and the lions are pretty docile sitting under the tree although they are showing a small interest in the herd of Cape Buffalo that are walking towards the swamp not too far away. As we make our way around the last corner of the tree I am sitting there taking up close shots of this one particular lion which has its eyes shut, I am using my 500mm lens but only need it zoomed into 200mm because we are close to the lions. So close that I take the camera away from my face for a minute and visually measure the distance between me sitting in the vehicle and the lion laying on the ground. I calculate that I could lay my body length down twice in the space between me and the lion. I literally am thinking to myself as I put the camera back up to my eye that “Holy XXXX! We are close.” Just at the moment that I start to take more pictures the lion opens it eye, stares straight at me and then proceeds to follow me as we slowly move past him. I took a few more nervous shots, put my camera down and without asking anyone else in the vehicle, turned to the guide and said “We are good…. LET”S move on!”
Did I mention that I was riding in the open sided vehicle that day? Twelve feet from a lion who is looking at me with an intent stare that I perceived as “Silly……. silly man….. Come just a bit closer and you will have brought me my lunch. Come closer, I dare you.”
This field sketch is from the moment just after the lion had opened it’s eye and stared at me.