I spent six days in the bushlands of South Africa. Each morning and late afternoon, when the sun was low and the animals were most active, I would hop into a roofless Land Rover, along with an experienced ranger and three or four other lodge guests. We'd drive for hours at a time. Sometimes common birds were the only animals we would encounter, but nonetheless we enjoyed the smells and the stillness of the semi-arid land around us. Other times we would encounter magnificent wild animals and inch forward to within an arm's length of them. As long as we remained seated in the Land Rover, we were safe; the animals would view us humans as part of the vehicle and would not charge at us.
I was extraordinarily lucky. While many visitors see no large cats, we encountered lions on five separate occasions. We spent so many hours with one pride of six lions that we felt we knew each lion personally: two territorial lions (hence their roaring), a useless lion who hindered others when they tried to hunt, a sleek lioness with piercing eyes and expert hunting skills, her older daughter, almost full grown, and a baby cub with alert, pleading eyes.
Only once did I fear for my life. The sun had set. A herd of buffalo stirred up so much dust in the air that we could see only a few feet in front of us, even when shining a strong spotlight. Driving slowly, we suddenly came upon a pride of lions, a baby buffalo clenched between the jaws of one of the males. The buffalo let out a distress call, causing the rest of the herd to race toward it -- and towards our vehicle. We were trapped between bushes, lions, and buffalo, surrounded by commotion and noise and thick dust. We could only sit and wait, hoping the buffalo (the bush animal most dangerous to man) wouldn't charge. Eventually we were able to move, only to have the lions bring down an adult buffalo, causing a resurgence of frenzied activity. Finally we made it back to camp, detouring many kilometers to get around the buffalo herd. That night the frightened buffalo invaded our camp. A ranger with a rifle had to clear the buffalo before walking us to our tents. In the morning, all was calm. We visited the lions who hadn't moved since evening; they all lay about lethargically with their bellies full.