In all honesty, previous animal encounters we’ve had have been fairly tame. Sure they’ve been fantastic fun but they haven’t been truly adventurous.
We’ve hand-fed giraffes in Seattle, interacted with beluga whales in San Antonio and rode Icelandic Horses in Iceland. The most extreme thing we’ve done is gone swimming with reef sharks in Hawaii but even that didn’t really get our hearts pumping all that much.
But how about coming face-to-face with the king of beasts, the lion, during feeding time? The thought of this sent shivers down our spines but excited us at the same time.
New Zealand’s largest wildlife sanctuary and conservation project, the Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch, offers a daily Lion Encounter for 20 visitors. Orana takes the $30 paid by each of the customers to maintain the lions habitat at the park and ensure that they can “hold” them to send off to breeding programs if required.
We waited at the meeting place where we were briefed by a staff member before being led into the African Lion Habitat and to a specially modified vehicle. This was our time to come face-to-face with the lions!
We boarded the vehicle and the Orana guides locked the gates. Our heart rates went through the roof as we entered the lion habitat and were immediately set upon from all angles by the entire pride of lions, clearly hungry for some fresh meat.
All we could hope was that they didn’t want a piece of tasty us.
Fortunately we were well back in the safety of the cage as the guide carefully fed them through the gaps in the steel. Hearing these lions snarl and watching them pounce onto the cage in search of food was a truly remarkable experience and one we’ll never forget.
If you haven’t already, check out the video at the top of the post. That will show you exactly what we saw from within the cage!
Would you come face-to-face with a lion like we did?