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Friday, 8 January 2010

Close Encounter of an African Kind

Today we took our grandkids who are visiting from Kazakhstan, to a nearby lion and game park as part of their Christmas present from us. Little did we know the unique experience we would share.

In a drive-through section, three lionesses lay sleeping alongside the road. The white one raised its head and gazed at me, while the other two showed no interest.

A truck came speeding out of another enclosure nearby and went off down the road. We think it was the truck used to feed the lions.

"Our" three obviously thought it was feeding time for them too. They got to their feet and roared in annoyance after the retreating van. I was happily taking photographs, while Rob kept the engine ticking over. Our teenage grandchildren sat in the back of our car, reveling in the sights and sounds of Africa. Our daughter and son-in-law watched from their car just in front of us.

Next thing, the white lioness looked in our direction and walked lazily across to our car.
What a wonderful photo opportunity, I thought.

But she was too close. She walked round the car to the back, so I re-focussed my attention on the other two.

Next thing we felt the car bounce, and at the same time my granddaughter said, "Oh my. Look at that."

We swung round, to see the lion's massive head up against the back window of our car. She had mounted the back of the car with her front paws. Her freckled nose was pressed against the back of the glass as her pale blue eyes gazed in, studying the contents of the car. (That was us.) I will never forget the view of my grandchildren sitting in the car with a lion literally looking over their shoulders.

I aimed my camera at her. Suddenly she lifted her head back, pulling with it our window-wiper. She seemed to be trying to pull it loose from the car. Rob tried to reverse slightly to nudge her away. I then noticed a second lioness come to join the fun. Enough was enough. Forget the photos. Rob put the car into gear and pulled away. We felt a resistance initially, then the car pulled free and we drove from the enclosure, watched by all three animals.

As soon as we drove through the double electrified security gates, we stopped both cars and raced round to look at the back of our car. There were several bite marks right through the bumper, which in our car is part of the bodywork. Further scrape marks and saliva ran down from the holes. On the window was a clear noseprint. (It looks way worse in reality than it does on this photo.)

A warden came over just then and saw what had happened. He was astounded, and said although he had heard of things like this happening, he had never actually seen the damage.

We later learned at the restaurant that this same lioness had done this to two other vehicles today, us being the first. In one case she actually pulled the bumper right off the car. So I guess she was having a really bad car day.

Now we await with interest the reaction of our insurance company when we ask them to pay to replace the bumper. "A lion tried to eat it."