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MAURITIUS DISCOVERY
» 01 Aug 2011
SAFARI ADVENTURES

FOLLOWING THE LION'S FOOTPRINTS

Graeme Bristow was spending some time in the cheetah’s enclosure when I saw him that Saturday. In his office later, he casually asked ‘Do you want to see what I do for a living?’ before proceeding to show me pictures of his then very young son feeding lion cubs in his house. After seeing my reaction, him and his wife Julie joked about having lion cubs in their garden and outside their office in Zimbabwe! At that point their passion was contagious and I realised that what Graeme actually does for a living is sharing his passion forthe wild with others.

The Bristows are third-generation animal handlers from Zimbabwe and they opened Safari Adventures Mauritius in 2007. They have raised lions, cheetah, tigers and they have in mind to bring more animals. Located in Tamarin, Safari Adventures welcomes all those who are keen to meet with the noble creatures for interactions and walks.
 

My walk was scheduled for 10:30 AM. Under a necessary tent that protected us from the African sun, we were asked to fill out our names before receiving instructions on how to behave during the walk. The instructions to meet the King of the Jungle were clear. Stay calm, don’t make a lot of noise, never run, let the Lion lead the way, never walk ahead of Him. We were then given sticks to hold to mark our acceptance and respect with the lions.

Stephane, our guide was very friendly and his great sense of humour created a fun atmosphere as the other people in the group started to mingle with one another before being asked to enter the 20 acres on which the walks take place.

Once there, the voices subsided as the group was requested to face the entrance of Bowser the lion and Zia the lioness. We waited nervously as Marcelin, a keeper, brought in the 2 lions. The majestic entrance left me stunned. I noticed other clients took a step back as well. Perhaps they too were not prepared to see lions in the wild like this.

Undisturbed


We watched Bowser silently as he lay on the ground undisturbed by our gazing eyes. He then decided to lead us further into the bush. Soon he was growling affectionately with Zia. My heart skipped a beat! When Bowser becomes a full grown lion, his roar will be heard miles away.


It is us, human beings who were learning how to interact with lions and they welcomed our presence in their natural setting. All we needed was our 2 guides who accompanied us throughout the adventure.


There was nothing like cages and double fencing to separate the lions from us. Even better, we could stroke their backs. Their course fur felt warm to touch, I was caressing a healthy, 70 Kg lioness. Zia did not take great notice of me. She was more interested in the trees around and who would blame her, I wouldn’t mind climbing a tree myself! I felt in touch with the wild and the little ape in me surfaced in between the Eucalyptus trees, acacia trees and tiny butterflies which were flying close to the ground. The land had been cleared slightly but still seemed untouched by human beings.


Drive-through experience

After our one hour walk, the lions led us back to the entrance and we waited for Marcelin to accompany them to their enclosure before heading to the tent for refreshments. The adventure is video recorded and photographed for posterity and naturally a DVD of the event is available afterwards. So most of the people in the group bought DVDs and CDs of the walks with pictures and videos to relive these magical moments.


After having introduced white lions and white tigers last year, Safari Adventures is soon introducing a 4X4 safari vehicle which will be able to carry around 20 people for a lion drive-through experience with the big lions. What Graeme and Julie have truly succeeded in creating though, is a welcoming environment for people, cheetah, tigers and lions alike. It’s by far, the BEST experience I have encountered with wild animals. For once, it is them who lead us into their world and not vice versa. They’ve shown us that the animal kingdom has so much to offer if treated with respect.

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