Of the many things I have done in my life this has to be one of the most unforgettable!
For this was the day it was decided that we visit Casela Nature Park and pay to walk with lions. Ferocious unrestrained wild beasts who consume about 45kg of fresh meat a month and are nearest the top of the food chain. They have teeth and claws and we were be with them; inside their enclosure; under their terms and in their territory.
A territory which consists of approximately 800 hectares and it is within this complex that we were to spend about an hour and a half; safe in the knowledge that we had each signed a personal disclaimer stating that should you be attacked or eaten then there is no come back on the Casela Nature Reserve themselves!
Initially then we were introduced to our guide for the walk. One very sociable happy cheerful individual named Steven.
He immediately put us at our ease and then asked us all to form a half circle so that he might explain the rules! As he spoke he handed each of us a wooden stick? This was to be our main line of defence and protection for when we were called out individually to stroke and pet these incredible 120 kilogram beasts.
Steven went on to say that whatever we do we were never to shout or make loud noises. We were not to crouch down in front of the lions; even when using cameras. Oh and we couldn’t wear sunglasses?
But most importantly of all… Should anything un-toward occur; we were never to run!! Lions are fast he explained; very fast. And they would most definitely catch us were we to try and out run them!!
It was at this point that several of the group members immedialtely went in search of an even larger stick than the one we were first issued. Going for a larger somewhat more substantial size!
Then cautiously we were then all led off as a group into the reserve; laughing nervously.
Then within just a few minutes through the shaded clearing up ahead of us came two handlers armed only with a stick! They were accompanied by a reident photographer.
But by far the most incredible sight to me was to see two lions both padding the dusty track with their enormous paws and just strolling in our direction.
The larger of these with his head raised and making deep guttural sounds from his throat as they drew nearer.
Then suddenly they were right there in front of us all; and being patted and hugged and playfully slapped by their obviously devoted trainers.
Then in an instant we followed on behind as these wild lions allowed us to accompany them on their afternoon constitution.
It was really really hot that day; and as we walked a safe distance behind each lion we were told all about the reserve and how the animals are cared for. Apparently the average age from a safety point of view for lions selected to take these special walks was around 3 years of age.
I have to be honest it’s hard to explain just how humbling it felt to be able to be so close up and personal with these two powerful unpredictable and imposing specimens.
Everyone in our group was offered the opportunity to walk alongside each lion and even to stroke and hold their tails. At one stage the younger of the two lions just took himself off and disappeared into some long grass behind the coqueluche trees. We were all asked to stand still.
I can tell you that it was a case of looking around you and above you because he was nowhere to be seen. Then to everyones relief he came out through the long grass bounding back towards the trainer.
The photographs in todays slideshow in no way do justice to this once in a lifetime experience which we all shared, but I just hope that they inspire you to do this for yourself one day?
There are apparently only three places in the world who can offer an experience such as this; though in my personal opinion Mauritius will be the one which myself and my family will treasure for many many years to come!