Surprise visitors at Swala

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Chris and Mina, camp managers at Swala camp in Tarangire National Park, experience at night to remember thanks to some surprise visitors around camp

It was almost full moon at Swala tented camp, our beautiful camp set in the Tarangire National Park, well known for its abundance of game and a waterhole that attracts hordes of game and predators. We often sit our clients out at the swimming pool for dinner for special occasions, and Sunday night was going to be one of those…

As we were waiting for the full moon to come up, we were enjoying a couple of snacks and drinks at our boma fire chatting about whether our lions were going to come into camp… we do a quick scan over the waterhole and notice some elephants quenching their thirst and, as we scan closer to the lodge, 6 buffalo bulls come into our vision. This was unusually close for these guys - but they were not staring at us, but at the swimming pool. This did not ring any alarm bells in my head, as we often have animals drinking from the pool if elephants decide to have private party at the watering hole.

We shone our light a little further up and see six lions drinking from the pool, just 20 metres away from us; luckily our askaris are standing around. The Swala pride is made up of eleven lions, which made us wonder "where are the rest?"

Our two German guests are quite used to the African bush and were brimming with excitement about their presence. Whereas our first time Africa travellers, a Mexican honeymoon couple, are not too sure what to do. It was quite ironic as they had not seen lions on their safari that day, and now they were just 20 meters from them, drinking from the pool were they had swam in a couple of hours before. We retired to the safety of the main deck with askari's following, and then witnessed an amazing spectacle over the next half an hour.

The lions (now all eleven of them) are sitting around the pool, or perhaps should I say been held captive by the pool; as every time the lions tried to leave the pool area, the six bull buffalo chased them back. It became a game after a while, but wow were those buffalo adamant that the swimming pool was the place they were going to have to stay until they had had enough. The interaction was amazing and left all of us gob smacked. Dinner was obviously not on the cards until the show was over. Finally, the lions decided that retreating in the opposite direction was the only real course of action and stealthily disappeared in the opposite direction with the buffalo in tow.

After much discussion, and another drink to settle the nerves, I had to let our honeymooners in on the secret; that we had set up their dinner at the pool… Needless to say they quickly declined and joined us for dinner around our dining deck! 

The rest of the evening belonged to the lions, and none of us got much sleep with the pride keeping us up with their territorial roaring until six the following morning.

For both those of us who have lived in the bush for most of our lives, and those that have just joined us for a short time to experience the bush, a night like this will stay in our minds forever.

Chris and Mina, camp managers at Swala