We arrived at the Sand River gate just 10 min before the sunset, where Samuel was already waiting for us. He told us that he had seen us already earlier in the day and wanted to talk to us about the campsite but we drove away too quickly. He was so friendly, telling us so many things about the wildebeest and the Great Migration as we were driving to the campsite.
To our surprise it was a pretty long drive. The campsite was about 500m away from the gate. It was a totally secluded spot at the river, with nobody near us. Then Samuel asked whether we would want him to stay for the night watch. I asked him whether it is necessary. After all, it was getting dark and we still had to cook some dinner. He said that at the campsite it is safe to sit outside even if it’s dark and we do not have to be afraid, e.g. to be attacked by a lion. Well, then we also did not see the point to pay extra 20 USD for him to sit around the whole night.
We set up our tent. We had some dinner. Then we enjoyed some stargazing with our heads out of the tent door. And as we were so tired from all the emotions we fell asleep at around 9 pm. It was extremely windy. The tent was flapping so loudly. Still, about 2 hours after we had fallen asleep, I heard it. Loud and clear. It was a lion. I was 110% sure, because it was roaring exactly the way the lions in Wilhelma had (the zoo in Stuttgart). My pulse was 300. I was almost scared to death (what an easy pray for a lion, he would not even need to kill us). I decided to not awaken Jens though. Maybe the lion was just passing, I thought…
Well, it was not. It was roaring the whole night. I barely got any sleep as I was trying to figure out whether the lion was getting any nearer. Or whether the sounds I was hearing were still the tent itself or someone sneaking around our car.
The scariest thing was, that we said the ranger to be leaving at 6 am, to be able to catch the sunrise in the park. This meant we had to pack our tent when it was still dark. As I was awake anyways, I panicky watched the clock to be able to turn off the alarm clock as soon as it rang – not to bring the lion’s attention to us, you know. It was when I also discovered, that there is no reception – so there is no possibility to call for help. I was already imagining all the German newspapers writing about us – the two dumb tourists camping in Masai Mara who refused to take a ranger because they thought they new better. They were the easiest pray for the lions, who have not had anything to eat for months since the Migration had delayed.
As the alarm clock went on, I immediately turned it off and told Jens to be silent. He thought I was just being lunatic (as he had heard no lions) and tried to calm me down. I was fighting with myself and my thoughts. I do not know why but, of course, it was me who had to leave the tent first and open the car doors. I’ve never been so scared and so thankful as I made it to the car safely. I was not sure whether I would have been really able to jump into the vehicle when there truly was a lion who decided to attack us. But it still gave me this illusional feeling of safety to know that there is an option for escaping.
Fortunately, we had practiced packing the tent a few times already and everything worked out well. Even the zippers played along. So, in 10 minutes we were sitting in the car and started our journey into the darkness. Samuel greeted us at the gate and wished us a great day. It was a great day already, just because I had survived the first night camping in Masai Mara and was able to see it.