This is a gardening blog, after all. So allow me a slight diversion between leopards and lions. This is an impala lily (Adenium multiflorum) – one of the PRETTIEST flowers you can imagine: it grows on leafless succulent stems that can form a largish shrub, and in winter, when all around shades of grey, tawny, taupe and chaff dominate, they are as incongruous as any flower can possibly be. I never cease to be taken by total surprise when I see them…
After the impala lily even this must be an anti-climax. It is, I strongly suspect, Dicerocaryum senecioides. A beautiful foxglove-like flower, it seems to lie stemless amongst dry grasses in harsh climates. I have seen it on the Limpopo and in Namibia and again at Djuma. But don’t be deceived: its common name is Devil Thorn, for its horrid seed-capsule that can penetrate a too thin sole, and immersed in water the trailing stems forms a slimy mess that can be used as a rather yucky soap substitute.
You want to see the lions? Here they are.
After we saw the leopard, dusk soon turned to dark, as happens in Africa – even when you are over 100km south of the Tropic of Capricorn. But before dark we got the message: a pride of lions was lying right by the side of the road, waiting before starting on the hunt. We found them where they lay patiently and stopped within meters of them. There were nine of them. They ignored us; we might as well not have been there.
Then a large female – the alpha female? – got up and walked in front of the vehicle, standing as if at attention, her massively strong forequarters on display, seeming to sense the night air and the action plan for the hunt. She turned and returned to the group. And then an eerie thing happened. Quietly, one by one, the lions got up and moved past the vehicle, a mere meter behind it and set off to our left. I didn’t dare move – no-one did. I don’t think we breathed as one by one they passed by us, paying no attention to us. But each as it passed left me with a sense of relief: I was not to be this night’s supper.
Oops. Not this one’s either.
Nor this last ones… (breathe)
And then, feeling like intruders, we followed them a little way as they walked single file down a narrow track, but we never got to see the hunt itself…
Next: a bounty of buffaloes