Encounter with Lions
It was February 15, 2005, this date had been looked forward to by three ladies, myself, the host and two overseas visitors from Australia, and I relate the days events to explain why so!
Meticulous planning had gone into ensuring that this day would be memorable right down to the point of having the car serviced. I was quite sure that my visitors would find a game drive exciting and certainly different! Even more exciting would be the opportunity to pat Lion Cubs in their enclosure and a drive thereafter through the five different lion enclosures.
With an early start to the day, we took a slow drive through the Lion Park which is on the outskirts of Johannesburg, my friend Elizabeth and niece Carla who enjoyed snapping photos of giraffe and other game, some so close to the car that we could have touched them. Obeying the rules we kept our windows shut, after all we were not there to challenge the game nor to be challenged. That reasoning would take a turn around later in the day!
Leaving the open velt (grasslands) area we went to the Lion Cub enclosure where under supervision of Game Park staff we were able to pat the cubs. All the while the cubs were playing like overgrown kittens rolling on short lengths of sawn off tree trunks,
climbing over rocks and pawing each other. “Oh how cute” we all thought! But within two years these cubs would be fully grown lions and not seen as “cute”!
Returning to our car we set out on our last drive for the day which was through the lion enclosure. Little did I know then that it would actually be our last drive in my car that day literally!
Our car was the one and only car entering enclosure number one. I drove at the slow restricted speed on the dirt road which winds its way between the pride of lions. Being close up to the lions even meeting their eye at times we were acutely aware of their strength and power.
Then the unthinkable happened, my car broke down! It had died and I died inside. The day was hot, very hot and the cars air-conditioner ceased too, of course. The car windows had to remain closed so the heat was rising inside. Turning our heads towards one another no one uttered a word but we knew what each other was thinking!
Between this happening and the time the second car entered the enclosure seemed an eternity to me. Attracting the attention of the driver of the second car, he pulled up along side us and realized our dilemma and then he drove on out of the enclosure to get help.
I was terrified, sweating, hot and worried about the reaction of my friends. Carla used the time to take endless photos of the pride of lions basking in the sun. Luckily for us the lions had shortly before been fed but “would they feel like desert?” I thought.
I began thinking of every eventuality and having a reasonable knowledge of lions and their strength did not help as my friends having less knowledge were not half as concerned. “Would one or more come nearer and actually put it’s paws on the car giving us a HELL of a fright”, or would Carla decide to open the car door for a closer look, a better photo, or would the intense heat cause panic? Then I had to hope that help was on its way as promised?As for the other thoughts I had, it would be better to leave to the reader’s imagination!
A Ranger did eventually come looking for us stopping in front of our car but then he had to walk between my car and his to tie the tow rope and now I was overly anxious as the lions were within meters of him. “We are safe”, I thought, but as luck had it the rope broke and the same procedure took place a second time.
Once we were on the outside of the enclosure, parked and waiting for further transport we stood outside the car listening to the thunderous roars and groaning of the many lions dangerously near to us but locked away. I reflected on what I knew of these animals.
A single blow from a lion’s powerful paw could break the neck of a small antelope. A lion can kill and carry animals larger than itself and its short, strong jaws are equipped with teeth of sufficient strength to break large bones. They can move at a speed of 65km/hr (40mph) so mere man has little chance of escape if eyed as prey by a lion!
Well everyone involved is here to tell the story so the lions had spared us.
During the years I lived in South Africa I heard of many cases where tourists in their ignorance of a lion’s nature were attacked and sometimes killed having left their vehicles. A photo taken close up of wildlife in Africa is not worth the consequences!
Facts about Lions
1 Male Lions can weigh in excess of 250kgs (550lbs) and after the tiger it is the second largest cat.
2 Young lions start stalking at about three months of age and hunt effectively nearing two years of age.
3 Male Lions begin to weaken at 10-15 years of age.
4 Lions most often roar at night, the sound, which can be heard from a distance of 8kms (5.0mls) is used to advertise the animals presence. Lions have the loudest roar of any big cat.
5 A Pride of Lions consists of related females, five to six in number, and offspring and a few adult males.
6 Lionesses do the majority of the hunting for their Pride as they are smaller than the males making them swifter. Working as a coordinated group they stalk their prey encircling the catch at a distance of 30m ( 98ft ). Then with a swift rush and a final leap they take down the prey. The prey is usually killed by strangulation or the Lion encloses the animals mouth and nostrils in its jaws.
7 The male Lion is easily recognizable by its mane which is one of the species main features. Apparently, the darker the mane the healthier the Lion.
8 Lions rest for about 20 hours per day within that time they may walk for 2 hours. They spend 50 minutes a day eating. They start their hunting between dusk and dawn.
9 Male Lions are normally found in two’s. Females are in larger prides.
10 When a lion cub is born it is blind for the first three weeks.
11 Lions are one of the ‘BIG FIVE’ formidable animals the others being Leopard,
Buffalo, Rhino and Elephant. An adult lioness eats approximately 5kg (11lb) of meat per day and a male lion eats approximately 7kg (15.5lb) per day.