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Safari Journal



Never let your guard down around lions

We first met Dougie Wright at Shinde Camp. Shinde is a beautiful camp nestled on an island in the heart of the Okavango Delta.  It is surrounded by clear waterways which flow past palm-fringed islands teaming with birdlife and game (the bilharzia-free water is so pure you can drink right out of the lagoon).  Shinde remains one of my favorite camps in Africa.  The camp’s unique treehouse includes a multi-tiered raised dining/lounge area under canvas set amongst the shade of ebony and mangosteen trees.  It is something to behold when you first see it.  There are steps going up and down all over the place and the dining room is located on the very top of the treehouse.  The sides are open to the sounds of the African night when enjoying dinner.  What I like most about Shinde is its remoteness.  You are lucky if you even see another vehicle during your stay there.

Dougie had arrived in time for sundowners and dinner.  He had driven to our camp from Maun which had taken most of the day.  When we asked him why he didn’t fly, his reply was that he loved nothing better than driving alone through the African bush.  Botswana was his home and he clearly had much affection for it.

Dougie and his wife, Diane, are the managing directors of Ker & Downey Botswana where they have been involved since its earliest days. Dougie was born in Maun, Botswana, and lived there most of his life.  His father had migrated from Scotland in 1918 and his mother came later.  His family had a trading store in Nokaneng.  Like most European children, Dougie went off to boarding school in South Africa where he graduated from the Christian Brothers College.  In those days, as Dougie recalled, it took three days by road to get to his school. 

Since Dougie grew up in the bush, it was quite natural for him to be found hunting and fishing for the family.  It was on one of these hunting trips, when he was a teen, that he had an encounter with a lion that remains fresh in his mind today.  With drinks in hand, we listened intently to Dougie as he began telling us his story about the lion attack. We had just finished dinner and were sitting around the campfire.  Dougie’s faced changed and he suddenly stiffened up as he began his story.  His enthusiastic spirit and laughter ceased and all we could hear were the “pops” from the fire and the sounds of the bush around us. 

Dougie was with a childhood friend hunting one afternoon when they caught a lion by surprise.  The lion attacked Dougie and mauled him severely before his friend managed to shoot it.  Although the moment surrounding this event were a whirlwind of frightening flashbacks, what Dougie remembers most is when his mother poured iodine over his wounds to prevent infection which would inevitably occur.  He recounted that although the lion didn’t kill him, he felt sure the pain from the iodine surely would.  Once we heard this tale, we soon realized Dougie’s tremendous knowledge and respect for the bush, which became evident after only a few hours with him.  We all gasped when Dougie stood up, opened his khaki shirt and showed us what the lion had done.  His chest was covered with horrific scars.  As we made our way back to our tents that night, no one said a word.



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