Safari Highlights: Lions, Cubs, and Sunglasses
Photographing the Big Cats is one of the top reasons many people journey half way across the world. Spotting one in the wild can be one of the most exhilarating experiences of your life. It was for me, that is. I am drawn to the Big Cats and find myself wanting to get as close to them as is humanly possible. But there is also a sane part of my brain that recognizes their strength as well as the danger and foolishness of not respecting that these are wild animals. Just look at this guy!
We have spoken to several new friends and rangers about how people sometimes forget themselves, lulled into a false sense of security. The stories we’ve heard have also sobered us to how dangerous these encounters can be when people try to interact or get that perfect shot.
Don’t misunderstand me. I completely understand their desire to do so. I won’t tell you my own silly stories about a shark in Tahiti and a bear in Wyoming, though I’m sure my husband, Ryan, would happily oblige. Even on our last safari, we encountered the most adorable lion cubs (see below). Seriously, wouldn’t you be tempted too?
The cubs were so trusting and curious, coming right up to our open-sided jeep. I was tempted to step out and scoop one up but my husband and the guide kept me in check. But we have heard stories of tourists doing some pretty crazy things. For instance, one man spotted a wild African Buffalo near his lodge. Now, I do agree that they look very docile, but they are actually one of the top five most dangerous, unpredictable safari animals in the world! The man tried to mount this African Buffalo for an unforgettable photo. Unfortunately, the Buffalo was not in the mood for a photo shoot, and the man was flung into the air and gored. I think he survived but his injuries were great.
Another photographer chose to forego a guide and drive his family on safari himself, which is permitted in some parks. When he spotted lions, though he had been told not to do this and there were warning signs everywhere, he left his vehicle to get a better photo. He was immediately attacked and killed in front of his wife and children and there was nothing they could do to help him. Studying the photo below, I do understand why he thought he might be safe. So sad.
Of course, I don’t share these stories to scare you, but truthfully, before I went on my first safari, I had no idea how dangerous they could be if you chose to be foolish. I came away with a very healthy respect for wildlife, not only for their beauty but their power and fierce determination to survive. I wouldn’t hesitate going on safari again, as we absolutely loved all of our experiences, but we are much more cautious and realistic now, understanding that when we are in the wild, anything can happen.
Well, that said, let’s go on. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include a few shots of the cubs we discovered!
The below photos makes us laugh. We encountered a few lionesses, weary from the hunt. As we sat and watched them, just feet away, Mikayla’s favorite (and only) pair of sunglasses slipped off her head and fell to the ground behind us, catching the eye of a lioness. (Here we are, just moments before that happened).
As her sunglasses hit the ground, we all held our breath, as generally, you don’t want to bring attention to yourself in any way. The lioness slowly got up, eying us and eying the glasses. Slowly she sauntered over to us, piercing us with her stare. Then she lowered her head and snatched up the glasses. I could hear Mikayla sigh audibly next to me, as she realized she would most likely never wear those beautiful glasses again.
We all watched in fascination as the lioness turned and gave us one more glance, before moving on to her own shady spot, away from the other lionesses, to chew on Mikayla’s glasses. Curiosity got the best of the others, and soon she was surrounded by the other females, wondering what she had found to eat. Sorry to disappoint, ladies.
Well, I’d love to share some more photos of the Leopards and Cheetahs, but I’ll save that for my next post! Until then…
June 4th, 2015 Update: Just days after the above post was written, we heard the tragic news of yet another safari victim. This time, it was a 29-year old American woman on safari near Johannesburg, South Africa, who failed to follow the rules of the park (e.g. keeping your windows rolled up at all times). While taking photographs, her window rolled down completely, a lioness attacked. She never even saw her coming. This story was a sobering reminder of how much we stand to lose when we place a higher priority on our photos versus our safety. I am truly sorry for the family, friends, and loved ones of this young lady.