We cycled into Borana Conservacy, where predators such as lions call home. The rolling hills set the scene, zebras and impala grazed and as we cycled, waterbuck galloped high into the air. An elephant took a mud bath next to the road and we stopped to admire a massive tortoise slurping up a puddle left after a heavy rain.
We were lucky enough to be invited by the owner, Michael, to this magical place. The scenery here was just.. Wow! There are mountain ranges to the north, deep valleys nestled between them and Mount Kenya to the East… it is easy to see how The Lion King got inspiration from Borana! Yes, for all The Lion King fans, the famous Pride Rock scene where Rafiki holds Simba up for the entire Animal Kingdom to see… that was based on Frog Rock in Borana.
And it was here that we had our first encounter with lions on the trip! As we cycled towards Borana Lodge, two lionesses lay in the grass, calmly watching us pass. We passed about 50 meters away from them with our fully loaded, trekking bicycles. Luckily for us, we didn’t see the lionesses at that moment…. We only realised they were there half an hour later, with another set of bicycles!
After the warm welcome at Borana Lodge, we had our first Safari of the day – on mountain bikes. We raced down the numerous hills that formed the valleys of Borana with our guide, Peter. A herd of zebras stormed out of our way, kicking up dust as they went. We passed an elephant who flapped and shook his head furiously before disappearing towards a juicier bush.
It was a choice of looking up at the endless scenery of rolling hills leading up to Mt Kenya in the distance, watching our wild neighbours or keeping a close eye on the sloping dirt tracks. A little while in, Peter spotted the two relaxed and unphased lionesses in the grass. They were not far from us and our bicycles, which suddenly seemed very cumbersome and slow. This was the same road we had just cycled on, with all of our gear, towards the lodge. He then told us they had been lying there since last night!
I thought if I ever saw a lion on the bicycle, I would be terrified. Like, pee in my pants terrified. But actually, Simon and I were both surprisingly at ease. I was more excited to see them than I was afraid of them. It was probably the fact that there were four of us now. My thought process went something like:
“Safety in numbers, it won’t attack a group of us.”
“If it does, only 25% chance of them picking me.”
“Am I the slowest one here?”
Then I figured, if they were going to have us for dinner, they would have eaten us when we cycled in. They seemed so calm sitting there, watching us. I think that also had a calming effect on me. Nevertheless, because we were now on a formal cycling safari, if something happened people can’t say, “well, they asked for it.”
If I had seen them on our bicycles when we cycled passed with all of our heavy gear… well, then I might have peed my pants… just a little. Anyway, it was a good warm up for Tanzania and Southern Africa, where there are also chances of seeing a lion on the road!
After enjoying a few more hills with the mountain bikes, we came back to the lions with the car for a closer look. My earlier theory about them not being hungry was clearly wrong. We watched, as they spotted an eland nearby and set out for a hunt. We were told their last meal was a week ago and their tummies must be grumbling.
The lionesses didn’t make a sound. They both stood up, tail curved and walked towards a clueless eland. One lioness stopped and layed down in a bush. The other prowled in a large semi circle, head low. Her plan was to come around the other side of the eland and chase it towards her sister, who was laying in ambush. But she screwed up, poor thing, and didn’t do a large enough circle. Without even trying further, they called off the hunt to save precious calories until their next try. The eland, continued happily grazing and lived to see another day.
The next morning, we saw two beautiful black-maned lions walking along the same road that we cycled on the day before. They had come to pick up the two females before disappearing into the bush.
We didn’t imagine we would see lions on the bicycle so soon and we thought about all the animals we had encountered on our trip. We have cycled past lions, elephants, a black rhino, a white rhino, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and antelopes such as eland, waterbuck and impala. We have camped with hyenas, elephants (intense!) and about 5 unidentified, very vocal, creatures… and probably countless other furry passers by who are a bit quieter. And all of this in Kenya! Kenya is quickly stealing our hearts.
For more photos from Borana Conservancy, see here.