Eye to Eye with a Lioness

She wakes from her afternoon nap with the soft orange shine baking her stoic face.  Like a wounded soldier she seems to have to press all her strength to the floor to stand up.  She cranks her neck and yawns widely.  Then, she turns towards us and strides slowly directly at me.  Eye-to-Eye with a full grown lioness, no words explain.

Lioness, Chobe

She steps closer and closer towards me as I snap the trigger of my camera and attempt to ease the shake in my fingers.  I focus and refocus as she grows bigger and bigger in my viewfinder.  Soon she fills the whole frame, not soon after my lens can’t focus because she’s too close.  I pull my lens from my eye and see the lioness about a meter from my left arm.

Lioness, Botswana

She bends her head almost submissively and pauses for a fraction of a second then looks up towards me.  We make eye contact for what seems like an eternity but was more likely the fraction of a second.  I see her right eye blackened in blindness and scared around socket.  Her good eye seems to have sadness to it.  Though her eyes show weakness, her body shows nothing but strength.   In a quick surge, she races off away from us.

Lioness, Chobe National Park

As our Kalahari Tours safari vehicle erupts in oohs and ahhs, and the driver moves in hopes of seeing her again, my mind starts to wander to thoughts of the lioness.  I wonder how she lost her sight.  She must have been in a fight with an elephant protecting its calf.  Perhaps she was protecting her own young from a giant male lion who had just taken claim of the pride.  I wonder if she found herself in a stampede of water buffalo or wading through waters full of crocs.

The adventures a lioness must have.  I wonder what it’s like to be a lioness in the wild.  I wonder what adventures she must have, the things she must see, the battles she must fight.  I like to tell myself that I live a life of adventure, but our lives are so tame.  Is it wrong of me to dream of the life of a wild animal?  Is it strange that I envy the lifestyle of this lonely lioness?

Lioness, Botswana

The world of human kind offers challenges of all types, but part of me has also searched for a more primitive adventure: one where we had to hunt for our foods, protect our lands, and fight for respect.

We see the lioness once more before we leave.  She wanders along the river front before again finding a tree to settle under.  She lays in attack position and lays nearly motionless waiting for prey to step within reach.  After 15-minutes we run out of patience waiting for her to hunt and we head to camp.  In the end, I may not have the patience to be a hunter, and I prefer my steak medium-rare.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. Too bad for the poor animal.
    Good article.

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  2. i never had a close encounter with animals like lion..and you’re right, the nature just works that way..if you’re weak.then you’ll be at the bottom of the food chain..:)

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    • Haha, so true mate!

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  3. Nice story! And I agree her good eye seems sad!

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  4. We just returned from Chobe and your lioness is still leading her offspring in defending her territory. She is much thinner but was welcomed so enthusiastically by her pride after crossing the river I retain the hope they will see that she is kept fed for some time to come.

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    • Nice! Thanks for the update Sara, and nice sighting to see the whole pride!!!

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