This morning after breakfast we were taken for an orientation walk around the park and went to a seminar to see what they do here, basically identical to the place I visited in Zambia two years ago, accept a lot cheaper. We had one of the guides explain everything to us and then we watched a short DVD showing us the activities.
Most people ended up picking everything there was to do with the lions and I was told I could go on anything I wanted, as long as there was a free spot. Wonderful, I thought, that means I'll be doing just about everything.
The first thing on today's agenda was the lion feeding activity, I climbed onto the back of the ute, with most of the group (I love how this is completely normal in Africa) and was taken across the park to where they keep the full grown lions that they use for breeding. We went to one enclosure fences with chain mail, which only contained a huge pile of cow offal, it was down wind and it was covered in flies and it smelt pretty rancid. In the adjacent enclosure were seven lionesses. We were told to get our cameras ready and then they opened a door and let the hungry ladies in to get there food. The big cats raced over towards us, and there was a little squabbling and one lioness even went in the submissive pose by ducking down and waiting for her turn to eat.
We didn't watch the lionesses for too long, because the smell from the meat was getting to a few people, so we climbed back into the ute and went to watch the male lions be fed. This time we could get really close to the fence, well we could actually put our cameras through the fence. Our guide signaled for the big boys to be released and they came pelting towards us, their manes flying in the wind created by their running. They pounced on the meat, and fought, squabbled and roared at each other. I couldn't believe all that separated me from this madness was a flimsy bit of chainmail fence.
Two lions actually managed to eat and one ran off with another chunk, another lion managed to steal the cows stomach…unfortunately for him it was a small stomach and when he ripped it open I think it was more than a few people could take. Someone asked the guide if they had favourite pieces of meat and the guide said no, but as we watched it was clear that certain lions, pawed through the pile of meat and selected the same types of meat over and over. We also wanted to know why they feed them like this, the reason was surprisingly good, they feed them this way so they can see which lions are the most dominant so they can be selected to mate with the females, as the most dominant in the wild would be the ones to produce offspring. Strong lions produce strong cubs.
After we all had our fill of watching the lions tear what was left of a cow to pieces, we got back into the ute and went back to camp and had our own lunch. It's amazing how desensitized you get to that kind of thing, most normal people wouldn't be hungry for at least the rest of the day.
The next activity, I wasn't sure I was going to get a spot on because only four people at a time were allowed to go on it, the cub viewing activity, luckily for me there was one spare spot on the afternoon viewing. We were just walked into a fenced off area behind the restaurant and there they were, just sitting on the grass. Three months old, a male and a female lion cub gnawing on an impala leg. Words cannot begin to describe how beautiful these two tiny lions were, I thought to myself, I always think when I'm travelling and something amazing happens, Wow, I'll never be able to top that. Well this experience, I think will never be topped.
The cubs basically ignored us and continued to play with their food, there was also a large eagle in the background which kept coming up and trying to take their food. At one point the male cub actually started stalking the huge bird, which was bigger than he was, it was one of the cutest things I have ever seen, or I fear am ever likely to see.
I did get to sit with them for a while and got a few photos of me patting them, I would have loved to pick one of the up and give them a cuddle, but looking at their claws, even at three months, I felt I would still come away with some serious injuries. We got all of twenty minutes with the babies and then we went back to the camp, I consoled myself with the fact that I would be back soon and I would of course see them as often as humanly possible. I'm in Africa on a two year contract, so I will probably get to watch them grow up, that's such a special thing I'm going to be able to experience.
I got back to camp and had a bit of a nap in my lovely little room and then went to help with dinner, which was awesome as usual. I had a bit of an early night, lots more to do tomorrow.