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Encounter with Lions

Updated on October 28, 2011
Elizabeth (left), Carla (right)
Elizabeth (left), Carla (right)

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.


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    • LadyLyell profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from George, South Africa

      You certainly have a way with words Charlotte expressing the moment!

      We are all glad we made it out alive.

      My adventure into the Okavango may interest you too another article I wrote when danger felt too close for me. That's life in Africa, full of surprises!

      Thank you for stopping by!

    • Charlotte B Plum profile image

      Charlotte B Plum 

      6 years ago

      aaaaAAAHHH! I was feeling all the excitement and tension build up as I as the story went on! hen you said that your car broke down, oh am I glad that you all made it out alive!

      What an adventure! =)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      It is 2:53 PM here in Fairport, NY / Upstate NY

    • LadyLyell profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from George, South Africa

      May I ask, what is the time now for you? We are on daylight saving time which I don't like but it does get one going early. A good time to write as all is quiet.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you sooo much!!! Have a safe trip back!!!

    • LadyLyell profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from George, South Africa

      Goodmorning,early morning, 5.30am in Sydney an early start to a long day for me with an international move to prepare for.

      My husband and I are heading back to 'Lion' territory so to speak, South Africa to live.

      However I will never be too busy to look out for you on HP!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Good morning or evening now!!!

    • LadyLyell profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from George, South Africa

      Goodmorning Amaudra, thanks for stopping by!

      What a pitty those lion cubs don't stay cute.

      Always so nice to hear from you and have a nice day!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love the baby lion looking up a tree!!!

    • VeronicaFarkas profile image

      Veronica Roberts 

      7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Wow. What a story! And, the pictures... The pictures are a bit intimidating, but so beautiful!

      I am glad that everyone was okay, and that you were still able to enjoy the experience (even if not at the time lol).

    • BEAUTYBABE profile image


      7 years ago from QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA.

      You have had an interesting life haven't you?

      You were so lucky that things turned out the way they did. I could feel the fear you went through in the way you have written this story.

      A friend of hours went through a similar thing and she just kept blowing her horn until finally someone heard her.

      She had her four children with her and her husband and they were all screaming apparently

      This was very well put together and the photos are amazing.

      I am so pleased to finally have read another one of you hubs. Well done. Pam.

    • LadyLyell profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from George, South Africa

      To answer your question Donna, I really don't know how I kept my cool. When you are responsible for others your responses are different. The wild life is not strange to me which helped a lot although my respect is evident. Many a tourist to Africa have lost their lives taking undue risks with lions and hippos.

      I hope your next choice of book to read is less terrifying.

      Happy new year!

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 

      7 years ago from USA

      Wow, how did you manage to keep your "cool" during such a fright? Great story and since I just finished reading a novel about a lion attacking and killing a woman, your lion facts made the story seem even more terrifying. Voted up and interesting.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What a frightening experience! So glad that all ended well. Loved your lion photos and the information about lions is interesting. Up votes. Thanks!

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 

      7 years ago from Mexico

      I recently saw a documentary about lions and was quite surprised to find out how affectionate they are, always cuddling with each other, especially females with each other and with their cubs. I loved your photographs and find that you are very lucky to have lived in South Africa.

    • LadyLyell profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from George, South Africa

      kevin,thank you for taking an interest in this frightening experience, one that I could well have lived without.

    • kevins blog52 profile image

      kevins blog52 

      7 years ago from southern Indiana

      That was an experiences to remember. Very well written.I enjoyed it very much. Thank you

    • LadyLyell profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from George, South Africa

      Thanks for your interest in our experience Sarena.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great article, really got captured in the moment. Can't imagine how terrifying that must have been for you. Glad you all got out alive.

    • LadyLyell profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from George, South Africa

      Thank you Sannel for taking such an interest in my account of time spent in a lion enclosure,not one that I would want to encounter again.

      Lions photographed in the wild are real to nature and therefore beautiful.

    • SanneL profile image


      7 years ago from Sweden

      Oh my, what an horrifying experience!

      This was a great story and I'm glad that you all came out from it well and alive. But I sure could feel your fright through your writing which implied vivid images.

      Those lions are so beautiful and impressive! Thank you for sharing this with us and thank you for those beautiful pictures. Voted up and beautiful!


    • LadyLyell profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from George, South Africa

      Thank you for taking such an interest in my encounter with lions. I could relate many such experiences out of South Africa and may do in due course.

      I did enjoy reading the experiences you related above.

      Bye fellow hubpage writer!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I could feel the sweat running down off my bald head and into my eyes! :)

      I've not been to Africa but have heard lions roar in zoos. Very attention-getting even in that environment.

      Tourists, it seems, can be idiots around wildlife in any country. The foolishness of some people visiting Yellowstone Park is legendary. I've only been through that Park a few times over the years but have witnessed a number of really bad moves and read about others.

      --Feeding bears through open car windows.

      --Surrounding bull elk to take photos

      --Kicking a resting bull bison to make it get up for a better picture (that tourist was charged and killed, definitely improving the human race).

      My favorite zoo experience occurred in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. My 2nd wife and I were having a great day. Early on, we'd visited the elk enclosure within minutes after a calf had been born--way cool! A bit later, we were coming up to an enclosure housing a big male jaguar.

      The jag had a look in his eyes that said he knew people were idiots. A family (husband, wife, and young son maybe eight years of age) paused in front of the cage tos stare at the big cat. (Not lion-big, but still big.)

      Suddenly the critter shot a stream of urine a good fifteen feet...through the bars!

      We heard the little boy ask brightly, "He peed on us, didn't he, Daddy?"

      Daddy didn't answer. Humiliated, I guess; he had the look of a fellow who would take it that way.

      We came up next. I gave the jaguar a big thumbs up.

      Best day ever in a zoo.

      Voted Up and Across.


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