Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lion family enjoying the lazy days of summer


Night falls swiftly in Africa.  Under a deep indigo sky where the splash of the milky way shimmers in its bed of starlight, more brilliant for the lack of extraneous light, Bruce stopped the Land Rover for sundowners.  He unpacked a picnic hamper stuffed with  beer, wine, Scotch and a delicious drink called 'Amarula' made from Marula berries and cream.  Baboons and elephants are known to become intoxicated when eating these tasty berries when they fall from the tree and start fermenting.  Then a selection of crisps and biltong (dried salted meat much like American jerky) was laid out on the front of the Land Rover.  Sundowners by moonlight with the mysterious sounds of an African night all around us.  It was magical.

The following morning, up bright and early, we came upon two giraffes feeding on an acacia tree at the side of the road.  Wrapping thick grey tongues around branches and twigs they stripped away the foliage and finger length thorns, then  crunched and swallowed the prickly mass.  While their hosts browsed, tiny chocolate coloured oxpeckers tiptoed up and down three foot long necks nibbling and probing for ticks.

"Now for the lions" said Gunther, one of our  companions.  Gunther was quite obsessed with seeing a lion.  And then, as if by magic, Freddy picked up the pugmarks of the giant cats. 

Closeby, in an open space were two beautiful lionesses surrounded by seven cubs of varying age.  The females, with coats the colour of caramel that blended with the sand and dried leaves in their resting place dozed, whilst their cubs tumbled in play around them.  For an hour, like silent watchers at a wake, we sat no more than 15 feet from the group with Freddy keeping guard from his exposed perch.

Just 24 hours later, cocooned in the quiet sterile world of South African Airways Flight 201, I gazed down upon the skyline of New York and my thoughts drifted back to the sound of wind rustling through dried grass and the hiccup of a lion cub as it suckled at its mother's breast.

Images copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday, 20th November, 2010


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