15 December 2010 by Kate Turkington

How to change a tyre among a pride of lions

Image courtesy Bianca Bothma

During an afternoon game drive at Madikwe Game Reserve, the Land Rover I’m in arrives at a lion sighting. There are 7 beautiful beasts in total, lazing about in the thicket. Despite the rarity of this sighting, everyone is suddenly staring at the vehicle in front.

The back left tyre is completely flat.

Surrounded by thorn trees, with a pride of Africa’s most famous predators on the left and a Land Rover full of bemused European travelers on the right, the situation is rather interesting. Between the 3 vehicles at the sighting, there are nearly 30 people, most of whom have never seen a lion before. There is complete silence, and many nervous expressions.

The rangers explained that lions see vehicles as ‘boxes’ and that people are safe provided that they remain inside and don’t startle the animals.

The ranger driving the distressed vehicle knows that calling roadside assistance is not an option. He has to change the tyre and he knows the lions aren’t going anywhere soon. He radios the other rangers on site and quietly asks them to move their vehicles together to create a barrier between his Land Rover and the curious cats.

Everyone is instructed to remain seated and keep an eye on the pride while 2 of the rangers stealthily unhook a spare tyre and slowly jack up the vehicle. A 400kg male lion lies less than 10 metres away, but his attentions are thankfully diverted by a lioness, buying the rangers a bit more time.

The tyre is successfully changed and there are sighs of relief all round, although some clearly enjoyed the thrill of the situation, knowing that they were in safe hands. How so? The rangers explained that lions see vehicles as “boxes” and that people are safe provided that they remain inside and don’t startle the animals.

Visit http://www.madikwe.com for more information about Madikwe Game Reserve, as well as Jaci’s Lodge, a 5-star retreat inside the reserve.

Category: Wildlife

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