Like many people I have always dreamt of traveling to Africa. After spending the last 15 years working in international development and conservation, I’ve had the wonderful opportunities to travel extensively in the Americas and in Asia, but never to Africa. On Botswana: Kalahari, the Delta and Beyond, I fulfilled a dream of seeing so many amazing species in the wild and experienced the lovely reminder that people are just one small piece of this beautiful puzzle that is our world. And we aren’t always on top of the chain.
Four days into our safari in the Okavango delta, we tracked a lone male lion all morning to no avail. In the rainy season, the wildlife is gorging on nature’s abundance and is able to spread out beyond the larger waterholes and rivers, and they much more easily hide in the tall grass. Thuto, our guide, explained that our lion could be snoozing 15-20 feet away from our vehicle and we would never know because of the tall grass.
That night, as we finished our sundowners overlooking a stream and the hills to the west, we heard a roar quite close and jumped into the vehicle to find our lion. Night fell before we came around the bend to see our guy sauntering in our direction.
Meeting a lion, not 10 feet away, at eye level in an open vehicle at night was one of the most thrilling and humbling experiences I’ve had. Because I was seated next to the driver’s seat, I was closer to ground level, and the lion seemed to hold my gaze for a moment. The lion was cautious to an extent, but overwhelmingly he exuded power and precision that wouldn’t have bode well for me had I stepped out of the vehicle or even made a sudden move.
While the thrill was memorable, as I reflect on that moment now, I feel humbled and oddly comforted by realizing despite our complex genetic make-up as humans, we can be just as vulnerable as the next prey a predator may encounter. That connection is not one I take lightly and hope to honor that in my work with WWF moving forward.
By Kate Greenberg, Senior Development Officer, WWF