Thursday 15 June 2023

Wildlife by Tony Domaille, Dakari


I suppose you could say our safari holiday started to go wrong with a difference of opinion. Our safari guide thought the lion was asleep, and the lion didn’t. So, when our guide tried to pose for photos with the so-called sleeping lion, it demonstrated its considerable irritation by chasing him up a tree.

Now, I’m no expert on lions, but I decided that staying in the Land Rover with Claire, and locking all the doors was a well thought through strategy. Our guide wasn’t so sure and kept screaming for me to drive the motor over to the tree. His plan – and I wasn’t a fan – was to jump out of the tree, onto the vehicle and climb in through the sunroof. I mean, what was there to say lions can’t jump up on cars and negotiate sunroofs themselves? In fact, in the end I had to yell to the guide to stop suggesting it in case it gave the lion ideas.

‘We can’t just leave him there,’ said Claire.’

‘Why not?’ I said. ‘That lion doesn’t look like much like a tree climber. He’s safe up there.’

She rolled her eyes. ‘But what if the lion is in for the long haul? What if his pride turns up?’

That’s just typical of Claire. She always has to point out the flaws in any ideas I have.

I said, ‘We could drive back to the hotel and get help. That way we don’t leave him there long.’

‘Great,’ said Claire. ‘Except there are no keys in the ignition.’

There you go, I thought. He’s no idiot that guide. He obviously took the keys because he was afraid we might nick his Land Rover. I remembered watching Fast and Furious 1, 2 and 4 (I don’t know how I missed 3) and racked my brains trying to remember how to hotwire a car. Then I thought I might give myself an electric shock and it probably wasn’t worth the risk. In any case, I wasn’t convinced I’d be covered on the insurance to drive and told Claire so.

‘What?’ she said. ‘You think they have traffic cops patrolling the Savanah?’

At this point I thought I had her. ‘Ah, but what if we had an accident?’

Claire gave me a look I haven’t seen since I tried to be helpful and washed all her jumpers in our brand-new washing machine, leaving them only big enough to dress a Cindy doll.

‘Yes, Colin. A dent in the front wing, following a brush with a gazelle, would be so much worse than staying here, watching our guide becoming lunch and waiting to become dessert ourselves.’

She had a point, but it was hard trying to think things through, what with the lion roaring and the guide screaming. But it was then that I hit on a new idea. Yes, things were very noisy, but what if I sounded the horn? Perhaps someone would hear and guess it was a call for help.

‘Does the ignition need to be on to sound the horn?’ I asked.

Claire leaned forward and pressed the centre of the steering wheel.

‘No,’ she yelled over the roaring, screaming, and sound of the horn.

‘Right,’ I said. ‘Well, let’s keep pressing that and get some help.’

I leaned on the horn myself and the lion stopped roaring. Our guide put his hands over his ears and stopped screaming.

The lion shook its main. It glanced up at our guide in the tree and then back at our vehicle. It clearly wasn’t happy with the noise I was making and, for moment I thought it might charge at us. I took my hand off the horn. Then the lion started to walk toward us, but when I put my hand on the horn again it stopped. For a moment we stared each other down and then the King of the Jungle decided it had had enough of all the racket, turned, and wandered off without looking back.

We watched it all the way to the horizon before gingerly opening the car’s doors and jumping out. The guide jumped out of the tree to meet us.

‘You saved me,’ he said, flinging his arms around me. ‘You’re a hero.’

Claire snorted.

‘And you, Madam,’ he said. ‘You are so brave. How can I ever thank you?’

Claire told him the best way would be to drive us back to the lodge, sweep the compound for dangerous animals, call some drinks in at the bar, and recommend an alternative to safari.

‘Of course, Madam,’ he said, as we leapt back into vehicle, and he drove us off in a cloud of dust.

On the way back to the lodge we saw zebra, giraffes, a leopard up a tree (which incidentally made our guide have flashbacks and swerve a bit) a couple of rhinos, and enough okapi to keep the world in exotic BBQ until hell freezes over.

‘Nature is marvellous, isn’t it?’ I said.

The guide grunted.

Claire shook her head. ‘I’ll tell you what’s marvellous. A spa is marvellous. A shopping mall is marvellous. Cushioned sun beds by pools, cocktails, fine dinners, and cabaret shows are bloody marvellous. Nature is just…just…’

‘Dangerous,’ said the guide.

‘Yes,’ said Claire.

This summer we are in Benidorm. We considered Gibraltar, but the apes there have a reputation, and we’re done with wildlife. They do Boddingtons here, along with a decent rosé. Fish and chips are easy to find, and the entertainment is very good. We even get to play Bingo whenever we like. You don’t really need a guide, but if you have one there is no chance of wild animals chasing him up a tree. The closest we get to a life-threatening situation here is when someone jumps the queue for the bar.

When I look up to the sky, the same sun shines down on us as when we were in Botswana last year. The big difference is it’s like home here, but with a higher temperature. And when all is said and done, there really is no place like home.


 About the author 

 Tony writes primarily for the stage, but has had stories published in a number of anthologies as well as People’s Friend, Your Cat Magazine and Café Lit. His award-winning plays are published by Lazy Bee Scripts and Pint Size Plays and have been performed across the world. You can follow him here -

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