I have a couple of dearly beloved friends that live in the Langata area. So when I heard that a few big cats got a little bored and went out for a turn-up outside the Nairobi National Park, I was naturally a little worried.

(Also, why do we call them “Kings of The Jungle”? We all know that it’s the females who do all the work, and the males just step in and feast with zero recognition of the hard work that the females had put in. Homage is due to the females. Down with misogyny, you animals.)

“If I’m this worried,” I thought to myself, “How many more are out there like me? Wondering if their loved ones will come back home alright?”

So I came up with a quick guide to surviving an encounter with lions, which, being the caring man that I am (I’m not. That’s a lie. I’m not caring.), I shared with them. And they said, “More people need to see this.”

So here we are: How to survive an encounter with a lion.

  1. Tell them how amazing their mane looks. The key to disarming an aggressor is offering a compliment – and what better way to break the ice than a conversation about that mane that they wear with such pride. Ask them what their regime is: Co-wash and leave-in every week? Protective styling every few months to let it grow? How do you keep it so long without split ends? And how do you keep it so wonderfully detangled? Twist out, braid out or bun? Cocoa butter, shea butter or coconut oil? Your DC must be brilliant – what do you use? (I know most of that flew over the heads of all the men reading this. Gentlemen, learn a little. It will improve your overall ranking. Trust me. Or not. Whatever. Your choice. I’m just offering you a handy tip. Oh, the pun on that last statement. I know, I know, I’m horrible. Moving on.)
  2. Follow up the compliment by closing the gap between the two of you. (Or three. Or four. However many.) Physically closing the distance allows them to feel like you are making an effort to truly get to know and understand them. These big cats have been deprived of much needed affirmation and one-on-one interaction in the confines of the park. They quite likely strayed precisely because those in the park – rangers, fellow lions and lionesses, and the rest of the ecosystem – started taking them for granted . So they strayed to feel young, sexy and wanted again. Closing the gap addresses this need, making you an ally. Before you know it, you’ll be inviting them to dinner at your place. (I was about to make a Netflix-and-chill reference, but KFCB Morality Police is watching. Netflix and chill for them, not for you. Chill, yawa.)
  3. Lighten the mood with a good culturally-relevant reference. Self-deprecating humour works best for this – showing that you can laugh at yourself makes them feel more sociable around you. Try this raging classic that’s been doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook: “At least now I have an answer for all those people who ask me whether there are lions roaming around in my backyard!” (Oh, again, the pun on that last statement. I know, I know, I’m ungovernable.)
  4. Empathise. Tell them you heard about Mufasa, and it crushed your heart, so you can’t imagine how they felt. At least Simba redeemed the pride. “And hey, does any one of you know Simba, by the way? That’s a cool cat right there.”
  5. Direct them to a good place to eat. We all know that that’s a tourist’s greatest headache – finding the perfect eatery. Thankfully, one @sonisideup did all the research for us and put it together on her list of “Top 10 places to make your lion tummy purr“. It’s all on here timeline. Thank you, Soni Side Up. High-five. Or paw-five. Or paw-high. (What’s the lion equivalent of a high-five?)
  6. Kenyans love people with connections – and I’m certain that applies to lions as well. So drop a few names here and there. Talk about how you have a good friend that heads marketing at Simba Colt Motors. Or an IG buddy that runs the KCB social media pages. Or how well ICEA Lion Group folks handle you as a client. Or how you hang out at Simba Saloon every weekend. They won’t realise it, but what you’d be executing is a master class in priming and subliminal messaging: Making yourself seem like one of them by associating yourself with names and places they may be familiar with.

I could only come up with six tips at the time – lives were on the line, and time was of the essence. I can gladly say – no deaths so far. It definitely works.

So there you are. All you need to do to escape an encounter with a lion.

Because #BlackLivesMatter.

(Too soon? I know, I’m horrible.)