Safari Snippets: Honey badgers on the left!
We’re cruising along in the cool morning air, snug in our blankets, delighting in the dusky, fresh smell of the African bush. An out of place blur of black and white catches my eyes and I spy a pair of honey badgers. “Stop! Honey badgers on the left”, I cry! We pull up sharply and sit quietly watching them forage in the dirt. Hours of watching nature shows have taught me two things about honey badgers – it’s really rare to see them and that they are fierce. It is a real treat to see them in the wild and I feel I could just sit all day and watch them dig.
I glance to my right where two lionesses ghost out of the bush. “Lions on the right!”, I whisper urgently! All heads whip right and our guide, Jacques, chuckles “Get your cameras ready. This will be good!”
I’m torn. I’ve always wanted to see lions hunt, but I don’t want to see an animal hurt. Do I watch or shut my eyes tight, put my fingers in my ears and chant “la la la” under my breath until it’s over? I can’t look away.
The first lioness flows silently through the dead branches of some fallen trees, then smoothly flattens herself to the ground. The larger honey badger pauses, nose to the wind, sensing something off kilter and freezes as she spots the lioness.
It’s on! The lioness springs forward and grabs the smaller honey badger in her maw. We think the little furball is toast when suddenly an overpowering stench envelopes our vehicle. In shock, the lioness drops it’s prey. Time to turn tail and run, right? No! The little honey badger pops back to it’s feet and charges at the lioness, tail erect, the message clear “Don’t you ever do that again!”
The lioness backs off and turns to stroll away throwing an amused “whatever” over it’s shoulder, but the feisty honey badger is running on adrenaline. It darts in and nips the lioness on the leg. The lioness kicks out and the badger tumbles away into the scrub. And back it comes for another go!
Luckily, the bigger honey badger has some bush smarts and gathers the smaller one up and draws it away. Off they go prance, tails spiked straight up, giving off very specific “Don’t mess with us!” vibes. The lioness follows for a short stint, then wanders off to find a snack that doesn’t fight back.
The observant among you will wonder where was the second lioness in all this? She joined the initial rush, but when things went south, she backed off with a very clear “You got yourself into this mess, you get yourself out” attitude.
It’s been three months and my family is still laughing over this incident – one of many treasured memories from our epic South African safari.