I often get asked why travel insurance for South Africans in Africa is not cheaper. Well actually, it is cheaper, see our African and Asia travel insurance for example. However, that does not mean that things do not go wrong. In this continuation of out adventures in Mana, I hypothesize at the end about what would happen if an injury does occur requiring evacuation.
The great thing about Mana is you are allowed to walk. Many people visiting are afraid to do this but the flood plains near the river are open with big trees, so visibility in winter is considerable and theoretically you can see dangerous animals and avoid getting too close. For those unfamiliar with the bush I can see why walking is daunting – you need to know some of the basics. If you are uncertain find someone knowledgeable and walk with them or hire a guide.
One early morning we were out looking for lion when we came across a vehicle with an elderly couple in it looking at something on the left of the road. We stopped and asked if they had seen anything interesting.
“Actually yes there are lion over there about 300 metres into the bush,” he said pointing to the opposite side of the road they were looking. The man had a heavy German accent and a smile on his face and I thought that has got to be a joke but then remembered that this kind of sarcasm is seldom encountered with Germans. We scanned the veld and sure enough, in the shade we could make out the outlines of the lions lying in the shade. The German was not joking and not lying.
We thanked them and drove a short way away. I wanted to get a photo of the lions but they were too far away. “Ok, whose coming to get a closer look?”. Natalie, as usual was unhesitating in the affirmative. Mike was a bit hesitant but agreed and Karen refused flatly, “I’ll stay in the car thanks.”
I have come across many lion whilst walking in the bush during the day and as long as you are not surprising each other and you keep a certain distance, I have never found them to be dangerous ….during the day. At night a lion is a different story. Exiting the car we walked closer at an angle to them (rather not walk straight on to them so they can see your distance clearly and you can get closer without appearing to be making straight for them). Once within about 150-200m I judged it far enough and took some photos. Mike got bored and headed back to the car, whilst Natalie and I observed them. Lions are boring during the day, they just sleep and its not long before one grows tired of watching another animal sleep. However, it took two warthogs to emerge and liven things up. They were walking straight towards the lions, a smaller male at the front and a fat guy at the back. They were oblivious to the lions and continued walking straight up to them.
Presently the lionesses noticed them and sat up, alert, ears pricked and staring. I could feel my excitement rise as I realised something was about to happen. I checked my camera settings again and put on the continuous shutter speed. My heart was beating hard. The lions jumped up and took up position behind ant hills and trees to ambush the hapless hogs. Still they trotted on straight towards what looked like impending doom. As if communicating silently or merely natural greed, all the lionesses allowed the first hog to walk past them, fixated on the bigger boy behind. That was possibly their mistake. Suddenly all hell broke loose. The hogs simultaneously froze, realising that something was horribly wrong. Then it exploded. Looking through the lens I focused on the front hog so that I could catch the moment the lioness jumped on it.
Opening my other eye I could see one lioness in pursuit of it but the others were out of my view. Then it became evident that the hog was leaps and bounds faster than the lion. It pulled away startlingly fast from the lion. I also noticed that it ran straight past us. Within seconds, my disappointment that I had missed any decent shot of the action was replaced with the realisation that we now had a lioness in hunting mode running towards us. I let the camera down and pulled Natalie to me, “get behind this ant hill slowly lets back up.” As we backed into the anthill, I also noticed Mike swinging the car our way getting ready to make an emergency dash. However, the lionesses had given up. They stared mournfully at the disappearing warthogs and made their way back to their original positions.
We did the same, and once in the car the effects of the adrenaline kicked in, animated and laughing we recounted the events with each other. Later the tiredness descends and the quietness that comes with it as the body adjusts to the adrenaline seeping out of it. What a rare experience to have when walking on lion.
What would have happened if the lioness did turn on me and I got mauled before my good and brave friend, Mike, drove the lions off in his car? Its likely that I would have had first aid rendered and arrangements made for a chartered aircraft to fly me out of the airstrip at Mana. Perhaps I would have been flown to Harare and then taken by ambulance to the private hospital called The Avenues. This may well have cost in the region of USD 2,000. A 2 – 3 week stay there might have cost USD 50,000 and then a futher evacuation back to South Africa with an accompanying relative and professional nurse another USD 5,000. That is a total bill of USD 57,000 which is adequately covered in our Africa and Asia policy but you would not want to be coughing that up personally which is why travel insurance for South Africans travelling in Africa is a good idea and you may be pleasantly surprised at the premium.