Farewell to the Lion Park

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August 17th 2009
Published: November 8th 2009
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I actually slept until 7.30 this morning and didn't wander up to the Lion park until later. I wasn't feeling dedicated enough to clean the lion enclosures when I didn't have to! I took the opportunity to walk around the campsite and take photos and then went up to the Lion Park and visited each of the animals in turn. The giraffe family were all together in the main camp and Georgina finally seems to be quite happy away from her old enclosure. I grabbed a bag of giraffe pellets and chatted to Gambit and Purdy over their breakfast snack before going to say good morning to the meerkats. I timed my arrival at the cub enclosures well as the cleaning had been finished but it was still really quiet. The visitors hadn't really started coming and most of the other volunteers were still elsewhere. I joined Glenn with the cubs who were sleeping toegther in a patch of sunlight. Glenn had the good idea of joining them and took photos of each other 'sleeping' with the cubs. I pillowed my head on the distended belly of one and found myself nose-to-nose with another who opened his eyes sleepily and gave a great big yawn. We ran into the next door enclosure to find Tara already with the bigger cubs.
Soon the other volunteers joined us. Glenn, Tara, Iris, Em-J and I were all due to leave in the early afternoon, Chris and Jen were leaving shortly after us to catch their flight back to the states and Carmel was leaving at the end of the day to spend a few days sightseeing and then return to the park on her last day to say final farewells so it was the last day for most of us, with only Emily and Nicole staying on longer. I was really glad I'd asked Mike to fetch us later as we all enjoyed having the extra time with the cubs, and each other! We ignored the park rules about having no more than 4 volunteers at a time in each enclosure and all piled in to play with the cubs. The cubs, when they finally woke up, were terribly excited by all the attention and in the enclosure with the six 'little' ones play got particularly boistrous. One of the white cubs tried his favourite stalking technique of walking down the rocks in the centre, crouching low, wiggling his bottom and then leaping wildly all claws out. Fortunately we have fast learnt not to turn our backs on the cubs. The 'chew sticks' we have all aquired have also saved us from lots of teething nibbles - it's a pity it took us almost a week to pick up this particular trick, I could do with a few less scars!
We saw the new group of volunteers being given their guided tour. They were all listening earnestly to the lecture and taking notes on a clipboard! Hmmm, we never did any of that!
We continued playing and taking photos. Since Emily is not leaving she found herself being handed everyone's camera as we all tried to get a few extra pictures of us with the cubs. At one point she had three cameras hanging around her neck, a couple dangling off each wrist and one in each hand as well! We crawled up onto the rocks and pulled a few of the cubs with us and then tried to get a few group pictures with our dysfuntional feline family, most of whom carried on chewing on each other and us while the cameras snapped away.
Some of the members of staff turned up and we sat on the benches in cub world chatting. Eventually I had to go back to camp to empty out our tent and get an early lunch. I managed one last quick visit to each of the animal enclosures and sat with some of the group in the cafe, then had to pay off my bill in the shop and run back down to the tented camp where Mike was waiting with our taxi. Carolina had a new set of volunteers for various projects in the area she had to meet with tonight so she came to Pretoria with us. We drove out of the Lion Park for the last time, waving goodbye to Gambit and Purdy who had appeared at the campsite, either to see us off or to try to break in again, I'll pretend it was the former!
We had to stop in town for emergency supplies (i.e. extra camera chips!) and we felt a bit silly standing in a shopping centre wearing our Lion Park t-shirts with claw marks on them, and trousers and shoes which were covered in dust and still carrying that lion cub aroma.
We reached our hostel in Pretoria and while I thought it was nice to be sleeping in a proper building and not having to share a bathroom with quite so many people the others seemed shocked by the high tech security systems on the hostel and the residential buildings. My only comment was 'it's nicer than Johannesburg'! We settled into our rooms. Glenn and Tara are in the main building while Iris, Em-J and I are sharing a room in the other building, which is just down the street. I relished having space to unpack my rucksack and a return to internet access and communication with the outside world! Carolina is staying at th ehostel for one night so she came and found us and we all went to dinner in the restaurant together. We met the new volunteers none of whom are going to our Lion Park, but a couple of whom are doing conservation projects in the area. We spent the evening playing the role of experienced old volunteers and chatting about our experiences over loaded plates of food in the candlelit back room before retiring to our room (with walls and a ceiling, and an indoor bathroom!)

Additional photos below
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8th November 2009

and the cubs are really cute :)
4th September 2011

What a wonderful experience!
Just finished reading all the blogs about your time at Lion Park. The excitement of cub world and giraffe duty would be more than enough compensation for the seemingly constant poo cleaning! Really enjoyed reading about your time there and seeing the wonderful photos - such tremendous memories that will last a lifetime. Thanks for sharing!
12th September 2011

Thanks for you kind comment - yes certainly just spending any time with those cubs makes up for any smelly work that had to be done too!

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