The indigo sky sparkled with diamonds and I shouldn’t have had a worry in the world. He sat on a chair, calmly drinking beer and reading a book on the history of the Reserve.
I needed to pluck up courage. Should I be cool, collected? Or just run like mad? It had bothered me all evening and now it was time.
My dinner lay half-eaten on the table. A symbolic vision? Whose idea was this anyway? There were supposed to be fences. The accommodation was fairly basic, but just who had deemed a central toilet block to be reasonable?
It was only one lion, the Rangers had said… and they had chased it off the previous night…
“Unusual,” they had smiled, “they have never come so close before.”
The gardens round the camp were pretty, with stepping-stone paths winding their way among the rondavels – small, round buildings with pointed thatched roofs, inside one of which we now sat and out of which I would shortly have to tread.
It wouldn’t be out there again… would it?…
The heels of my Scholl clogs had long been devoid of rubber and they clip-clopped loudly as I walked those millions of miles to the washroom. But it was nothing compared to the rat-tat-tat of battle drums when, after a cursory wash, my stoicism dissolved and I ran Hell for leather back to safety. My heart should have been thudding with joy at the beauty of an African night. Instead it roared with terror at my derring-do…
He hadn’t moved. Not a trace of concern that I might have been another half-eaten dinner, lying cold among the flowers.
“Let’s look for the rhinos tomorrow,” he said.
“Sure,” I replied as casually as I could.
Amid all the anxiety I had forgotten that the Umfolozi Game Reserve was the most important sanctuary for the endangered white rhino. But, after that particular night safari, it was the lions that, in the mane, would have my share of the memories. I was only glad that I hadn’t become the lion’s share of theirs.
Submitted by Ann Seed, 66, Edinburgh