Meet Michael Shum and Shadrack Mashigo, two field guides here at Tshukudu Game Lodge.
Shadrack has been creating magical safari experiences for guests for twenty-eight years (Twenty. Eight. Years). And even though Michael only re-joined the Tshukudu team recently, he’s already made a big impact on the guests’ getaways.
We decided to ask them both a tantalising question:
Scariest wildlife encounter?
“This was lions.”
Shadrack explains how on one morning game drive, he spotted lion tracks in the road. They veered off into the bush. He made the decision to follow them on foot and told the guests he’d be back in five.
Shadrack had travelled about one-hundred metres away from the game vehicle when he says he “got this ‘warning’ – which was the last warning.” You see, he “was already too close”.
There were lions twenty metres away from him.
(Just a reminder that lions “can do about twenty metres a second”, says Michael. That’s twenty metres – about sixty-five feet – in one second.)
Shadrack says that as the lion growled at him, he “knew that this was the last warning. [And that he was] not allowed to back off.” In this sort of situation, “when it comes to lions, you have to stand your ground,” explains Michael.
To make things worse, Shadrack “didn’t know that they had newborn babies” with them in the bush. When he realised that there were three female lions and baby cubs, he knew he was “in big trouble.”
One of the females charged Shadrack.
Courage of a lion
What do you do if retreating will only make things worse?
“I shouted, and shouted, and shouted, and shouted,” says Shadrack, “The way she was coming, I thought ‘I’m gonna be gone’… I just closed my eyes and shouted. I was waiting just for that one smack so that I would go nice and quietly.”
Shadrack doesn’t know what made the lioness change her mind, but luckily for him, she turned around. “The tail got my legs and she went back into the bush.”
However, the terror didn’t end there. The reason she had retreated into the bush was to move one of the baby cubs. The lioness continued to do this until all the cubs had been moved. But while she did this, two lions flanked Shadrack and the lioness continued to harass him.
This standoff lasted for about two hours. And bear in mind that the vehicle with its guests listened to this whole drama unfold.
’Scuse me, just making a cub sandwich…
Michael’s scariest wildlife encounter shares a theme with Shadrack’s: lions.
He was guiding a safari walk. He and his guests were interpreting a termite mound enveloping a nyala berry tree. Interesting but not exactly dangerous, right? They were talking about the tree and “not paying too much attention” when suddenly they felt a low rumbling in the ground…
“Little did we know, there was actually a mating pair of lions about twenty metres behind us.”
(Remember what we said about lions and twenty metres?)
“We were in a bit of a stalemate,” says Michael, “The male lion kept charging us and then retreating while we had to stand our ground. The worst part of it was it was quite thick bush around us… and we saw the female kind of flank us.”
This flanking raised flags for Michael because it was possible a pride of lion was hidden in the bush. And that they were about to be flanked by more than just one. As Michael says, “it’s quite hard to stare down fifteen lions”. Luckily for him and his guests there were just the two.
The stalemate lasted for about fifteen minutes.
“Hair was raised.” We bet!
“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Michael leaves us with a powerful parting thought: “The main focus, even though we are guest-oriented, is to show these guests these amazing animals and what they are capable of. Not only how beautiful they are, but give them an understanding of how special it is to see these animals while we still have them.”
Anyone who goes on safari vacation knows that it’s not all stand-offs with lions. But they are always magical. Or they can be – when your guide is as patient and passionate as ours are.
Go on an experience you’ll never forget, contact us now: https://www.tshukudulodge.co.za/