Going on a safari to Africa is a bit of a gamble. Everybody wants to see the so-called Big 5, but this can by no means be guaranteed. The pressure on all guides are thus enormous as they understand the costs and effort involved in getting here, as well as the very high expectations of guests.
Huge was my relief early one morning, when after seeing a huge amount of vultures waiting patiently in a few trees not far from a private camp on a neighboring property, a pride of about 10 lions were found feeding on a giraffe carcass. This was about as good as it gets as far as lion sightings go and I sat back to enjoy the moment and bask in the glory of a job well done.
Then, very softly at first and far away, but slowly getting closer a strange sound was carried to us through the cold morning air……tcheeeng…..tcheeeng……tcheeeng. The sound was slow and repetitive, unmistakably metallic in origin and alien to the bush. I listened dumbfounded to this approaching curiosity. Knowing the area and its many inhabitants I have learnt to expect anything and everything and a dreadful fear of unwonted surprise began to grow on my nerves with each approaching tcheeeng…..tcheeeng……tcheeeng.
The lions also noticed it by now and all heads were curiously turned towards the source of irritation. “ What is that noise? “, one of my guests asked anxiously and I shrugged my shoulders as I listened to this strangely familiar sound.
Then through the mist this apparition appeared. I think that even the lions got a fright as they scattered at first. Then as instinct took control they began to circle and stalk.
Recognition hit the guests and I at the same time. An old man pushing a squeaking wheelbarrow was slowly approaching, completely oblivious to the eminent danger. My tracker and I recognized him as Koos, camp attendant of the neighboring private camp. The sight of vultures in a tree is universal language for meat and dear old Koos , we found out later, was acting on instructions of his loving wife demanding a change of diet. So what the wife wants, the wife gets and off he went hoping for the best. It might well have been that memories of a long, lost snare set to catch smaller animals like impala might have clouded his better judgement, but we will never know.
Screaming guests and a frantically waving tracker and ranger finally managed to catch Koos’s attention. He hesitated midstride, looked at us ( and the lions ) with a slightly embarrassed expression, swiftly turned around and off he went with a wheelbarrow now crazily bouncing along a rocky footpath…tchieng..tchieng..tchieng…leaving relieved guests and bemused lions pondering over this early morning adventure.