Walking With Lions

Scene: KUDUS RUS ( – a game reserve in the northwestern province of South Africa, with Isabel Vidal and Cremilde Geddes, friends from Johannesburg; and Sylvia Hebert, my friend from Houston.

When we arrived for a 2-day retreat into the African bush, always healing for me, we were told our options – one of which was walking through the bush with lions. It seemed like an adventure. I love adventure.

Ahem. Walking with lions inspired a heart-stopping breath when I saw the actual lions. Big Lions. 3 of us, 4 lions. Four BIG Lions. I’m fairly tall, and the backs of the lions came up to my hip.

Arnay Small, the resident lion-lover, gave us the do’s and don’ts. We were encouraged to pet these big carnivores. Very tentatively, I approached the closest one, who had plopped on the ground, and stroked his back, got braver, stroked under the chin. They are very playful by nature, being about a year old. BUT they weigh about 350 pounds – with claws – and fangs, and could wipe me out in a nanosecond – on purpose or by accident.

It took a bit of time to balance the very real fact that these were wild animals with the fact that they were used to humans. The wild part could take over at any point. The trick was to strike a balance between heightened awareness and calmness of spirit. Like always, really.

I’d do it again … and again!

6 Responses

  1. Ann Mc

    Yes, and we had a skilled lion man with us, who kept a running comment on how to be alongside these amazing animals. Having a guide/mentor is the way to go, definitely!

    1. Ann Mc

      Thank you, but the ones who are amazing are the ones who raise these lions and love them, and then successfully release them into the wild when they are old enough. Most of the lions were rescues or taken from their mother before the father killed them. Which is what happens in captivity – bowing to the notion that there is limited space, therefore limited food supply.

  2. Sarah Lopez

    While Frank and I had our own scare with a lion, walking with them was not an experience while in S A. Would reeky want to do this if I return. Thanks for being you and sharing yours adventures in living!

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