That's Me

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A wanderer. A bon vivant. A movie aficionado. En amour avec 'A'. These four remain constant. New interests develop every day. Latest being photography. And mastering the French language. Training for the marathon. And blogging.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The King and I

Hallo ladies. Look at your man. Now back to me. Now back at your man. Now back to me. Sadly he isn’t me. Look down, back up. Now look again.

Oh yes, the ladies look again and again. So do their men. I look at my man and find him swooning with admiration and delight - a look quite similar to that I am sporting. Can't blame him. Because you see, when the king of jungle sits in his regal throne some 6 feet away from you and gives you that royal look and imperial growl, you can’t help but feel mesmerized.

He is not the first lion we have sighted. In the last 6 days, every time we have gone out on a game drive – be it in Amboseli National Park, Nakuru National Park or Masai Mara Game Reserve, we have spotted a pride – sometimes more than one. But most of the time, we have seen the lionesses in action and the lions – the big lazy cats that they are – lolling in the sun or catching up on their post lunch siesta. One king did strut across us once - but he was about 50 meters away from us and we were not satisfied.

Yes, you do get greedy when you are in Masai Mara in August. Two million wildebeests migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya during July through to October. The plains of Mara are abound with food aplenty for both the wildebeests and the predators that have a field day during this time.  So catching a pride hunting down an unlucky wildebeest or enjoying a hearty meal is a very common sight here, if you happen to be around during that period. And the more you see, the more you yearn for.

The King has already garnered an audience. There are 5 safari vans – all lined up with eager humans, lapping up this incredible scene, clicking away his every move. Our guide cum driver, Simon has managed to place our van strategically in front of the King and we have the best view. I feel as if I am in a Nat Geo documentary. Watching the King in action from such close quarters is, otherwise, unimaginable.

Action, however, is a wrong word to use, since our King is not really doing much. He just sits there and looks to his left and right, obliging us with the perfect profile to be clicked. He rests under a croton bush, tactically guarding himself from the morning sun. His mane is ruffled, giving him an air of sophistication and he looks at us with disdain – the lowly humans, who have gathered around to disturb his mid morning siesta. He is so close to us that two leaps and he can get right beside us. But instead of feeling afraid, we stand there (inside our jeeps of course) – hypnotized and awed by his regal presence.

Something rustles behind the bush and we see the Queen. She cat walks up to her man, surveys the situation and does not seem to be too pleased with it. The lazy slob is at it again! Making a show of himself while she is out there, shopping for their lunch. Disgusting! She grunts in contempt and settles down under a branch.

The King, in a second, turns into a cat. The regal air is gone. He seems nervous. Gives a look that I have seen A give me every time I take an upperhand. Yes, the King starts behaving like any husband would do in such a situation. He tries his best to satisfy the miffed wife. He looks at her, sniffs her, even sings a love song in their language. The Queen acts pricey, ignoring the man. She looks away and sulks.

The King gives one last try and looks seductively into her eyes – a look that will put all the romantic heroes from Bollywood to shame. And it works. After all, which woman can resist such a charmer? The Queen seems to cool down a bit, happy with the attention she is getting. She gets up and goes round the bush. The King, slightly embarrassed to be caught in such a situation in front of a live audience, lowers his head and follows her. As the old jungle saying goes – even the King is scared of his wife.

The two of them go around the bush a couple of times and then, as we look at them with our dropped jaws, snuggle up to each other. Oh yes, my kingdom for just that moment. They stay like that for a few minutes, as if giving us lowly humans a few more moments to cherish. Peace returns to the household and the two settle down under two branches and look out at the horizon where a herd of buffaloes, unaware of their presence, are happily grazing around.

I am still trying to process what I just saw, when I hear a rustle from behind. I look back and I see another lioness walking up. She is just in front of our vehicle, and her face is all red – not from seeing her man necking another woman but from a recent kill she’s had. She slowly crosses us, ignores the other lioness that is resting under the branch and goes up to the King. Rubs her nose against him, as if to inform him that she is back from the hunt and places herself beside him. The King acknowledges her return by snuggling up to her – while the other lioness looks away. She has had her time with her man and does not care about the other woman, as long as she’s got a wildebeest or two tucked away in some bush. The new Queen sits with the lover boy, nuzzling up to him, as he licks her lovingly. Enough love exchanged, she gets up after a couple of minutes and finds her own space under another branch.

You can imagine our delight. All we can do is squeal like little kids. We are spell bound by what just happened in front of us.

The buffaloes, meanwhile, have grazed quite close to the trio and the greedy us ask Simon if we will be privy to a kill now. Yes, yeh dil maange more (the heart wants more). Simon answers in negative since it seems that the second lioness is just back from a kill. So they have enough food for the time being and would not mess with the buffaloes, which are, anyway, a challenge for the lions to hunt down because of their size. A buffalo spots the trio and runs to warn the rest of the gang. The trio, however, seem least bothered with the humans or the buffaloes surrounding them and they look into the horizon, admiring the golden plains of Mara.

There are more than 5 jeeps in the spot now and Simon says we must move since as a rule, only 5 jeeps can congregate at any point of time. Also we have been here for almost 30 minutes now and it is only fair that we give the other viewers a chance. Simon promises to bring us back to the pride later and we reluctantly agree.

We spot two more prides, and the usual flocks of zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, water bucks, antelopes, hippos and elephants. We also witness a river crossing by the wildebeests and continue our hunt to track down the elusive leopard, albeit unsuccessfully. On our way back, Simon drives us to catch a last glimpse of the King, with his royal consorts. We spot one of the Queens first, sleeping under the bush. The other one is a few feet away, dreaming about wildebeests and zebras. The buffaloes have cleared out of the scene – hopefully the herd intact. 

And then, there he is - the King of the jungle, the most revered and respected. On his back, with his belly up and paws facing the sky, snoring away to glory. Gone are the regal air and awe inspiring, blood chilling looks. The man of the pride, after sharing a hearty lunch with his Queens, has shed all his pride and retired for the day. He does not care how silly and vulnerable he looks – as long as he is left alone to sleep. He needs his rest – and he needs it badly. After all, he has to take care of the emotional needs of two wives and ask any man worth his wildebeest and he will tell you how tough a job that is. Court dismissed.


  1. Well written, feels like I was there..:)

  2. This is so well written Sasha. Probably your best. I suddenly felt that I was there myself and felt the hairs on my neck stand up when i read about Queen number two and smiled when I read about the King snoring away

  3. this is so well written ....u have really brought it alive.

    envy you the sight and the trip...

    have fun...and i hope you find the leopard too.

  4. Thanks all.

    Pinku - the leopard remained elusive - so that I have an excuse to go back again. :o)

  5. Hey this is nandini. love the pictures and the way you have described the king of the jungle! have a great trip

  6. Picturesquely written! Super stuff Sasha!

  7. Thanks again.

    Nandini - the trip is over - back to the daily grind. To say that it was great would be an understatement. :)

    Deven - glad you liked it. :)


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