Granny and the Lion


We used to holiday in the Kruger National Park in northern South Africa. Nowadays all the camping is done behind fences but back then there were a few older camps which were completely open to the bush. It was pretty safe, animals don’t care much for humans and they will mostly leave you alone. Late at night though you may get the odd hyena skulking between the tents or perhaps a lion gently padding about in the dark.

On one trip, when we were quite young, my grandmother tagged along. We normally slept in this old wooden camper van that folded out and was the most marvelous invention, but since my granny was staying we used tents instead and left the camper van to her. On our first night, when we were about to sleep, we heard the roar of a lion. It was close, like right-in-the-camp close. I felt my mother grip my elbow.

“We have to get out of here!” she hissed, scooping us up. She unzipped the tent, looked about nervously and dashed for the car. Once inside, we all sat there, breathing very fast. I found a flashlight under the seat and began scanning the camp with the beam.

The lion was still roaring.

“It’s right in the camp. Is Granny safe?” I asked.

My mother’s face drained of color.

“I have to go,” she said. “We can’t leave her in the tent.”

My mother opened the door. The lion’s roaring resounded through the camp.

“Don’t go,” I pleaded, holding her arm.

“I can’t leave her with that lion about.”

The roar changed then, and it sounded very much as though something was sniffing and shifting about. There was silence and the roar began afresh although it sounded vastly more human this time.

“What on earth?” said my mother.

“It’s coming from Granny’s tent,” said my sister, who was now giggling.

“Is the lion in there?” I asked.

“Give me that flashlight,” said my mother. She followed the noise to the camper van, checked inside and then came out covering her mouth with her hand, trying not to laugh.

“Let’s get to bed then,” she said. “Can you believe how loud that was?”

“Was that Granny?” I asked.

“None of you mention this to her. She won’t appreciate it. Let’s just go to bed.”

It took us a while to settle down. The sound of my grandmother’s snoring mingled with the myriad insects and eventually we all fell asleep beneath the canopy of African stars.

(photo courtesy of Tratong/