It was my first time driving down Mombasa Road. I was nervous.
We departed the petrol station at 06:30. 240 Kms (aprox) ETA 11:30.
Bacon sandwiches packed. Hot coffee prepared. Red bull cold and ready for consumption.
Real time of arrival 13:30. We diverted for fuel, and then got slightly lost…
It was a long weekend in Nairobi and my brother and I joined up with four friends of mine to go camping on a friends plot of land on the outskirts of Tsavo.
After a sandwhich for a late lunch, we pitched our tents. Meanwhile, half the group ventured off to the Sheldricks (“The name of Sheldrick and Tsavo are synonymous and it is in Tsavo that the Trust places emphasis. 8069 sq. miles in extent, the Tsavo National Park is Kenya’s largest wildlife refuge” https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/about_us)
They are currently looking after an orphaned baby hippo.
Mikey and I organised a braai (bbq) for dinner, which was followed by a couple of G&T’s and then a sleepless night keeping an ear out for possible nighttime visitors! Something was eating the grass by the tent- maybe a hippo- but I eventually fell asleep.
There was talk of pancakes (where were the bacon and eggs I wondered?), but no movement! Mikey and I delegated and ended up helping, and after a few ‘practice’ pancakes- I think we would all claim they were ‘practice’, Mikey and Gill produced some scrumptious pancakes which we layered with bananas and nutella! Marcus, an older gentleman who has a plot next door, flew low over us to indicate he was in, and we hurried across to his house for a bit of luxury and enjoyed a swim in the cool, blue waters of the pool, with a view of Tsavo River.
We headed back to the camp for a quick bite to eat, before jumping in the two cars- the other two girls sitting on top of Jack’s landrover- and headed for our game drive. Signs of elephant poo was the closest we got to seeing game, but we enjoyed a cold drink on the river bank before driving our cars up ‘wine rock’ to watch the sun go down.
Back at camp (after getting lost in the dark), we enjoyed a plate of pasta before all sloping off to bed. Again, I lay awake waiting for a sound of an unwanted visitor. And then I heard it.
This low, rumbling, growl.
My hairs on my body stood up on end. I could hear my heartbeat racing. Sweat began to form on my forehead.
“Is that a-” “Yes, it’s a lion”, my brother answered, with no hesitation in his voice.
And in that moment I realised that maybe I’m not as brave as I thought!
“Should we go to the car?” I asked my brother, hoping he would say yes. He didn’t. I knew I had to calm down and I didn’t want the lion to smell my fear.
30 minutes the later the growl was much closer. 10 metres perhaps. I was petrified! I know that lions don’t attack tents (well, at least very very rarely) and if anything, they are curious and want to have a bit of a sniff, but all that I could think of was worst case scenario. I was ready, waiting for this lion to attack. I kept contemplating if I could unzip the three tent zips, run to the car and unlock it all before getting an unwanted confrontation, but now he (I assume it was a he), was so close, I didn’t think it was possible. I think Mikey knew it wasn’t, which is why he was staying put.
Every half an hour he reminded us he was still there, keeping watch. I could imagine him lying up against a tree; alert; watching; waiting.
Eventually, at about 2:30 or 3:00 am, I heard the sounds of a distant hippo and not too long after that, that same crunching sound just outside the tent. I didn’t hear the lion again…. Lions don’t like hippos, and if this was a lone male, my theory is the hippo came out the water, and the lion moved off, leaving him to it. I was more afraid of the lion than the hippo, so when I knew my ‘unknowing bodguard’ was there, I fell into a deep sleep.
We packed up, headed back and had a thankfully uneventful drive back to Nairobi.
Needless to say, I was ‘dead to the world’ in my own bed that night.
At least there were no scorpion.