Day 2 of our Mauritius trip ended on a fantastic note and we ended up buying a model of HMS Bounty.
On to day 3 of our Mauritius trip. As per the itinerary set by our trip organizer, day 3 was supposed to be a day of rest. However, we had done a bit of digging and discovered that Casela National Park was an absolute must see location for anyone visiting Mauritius.
So we made a few phone calls to our tour organizer, some money changed hands and we were on our way to Casela National Park. Casela National Park is a wildlife sanctuary, zoo and adventure park all rolled into one. It has loads of wildlife related activities and some adventure activities like zip lining and quad bike driving as well.
So let me get on to the activity which we were really really looking forward to.
Walking with the Lions!!
To the best of my knowledge, this activity is offered in only three countries in the world: Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mauritius.Let me try to describe this activity.
- Step 1: Take 2 Lions or Lionesses. We are an equal opportunities employer here in Mauritius.
- Step 2: Take a bunch of unsuspecting pieces of lion food/ pieces of meat tourists.
- Step3: Make them take an hour long walk with the aforementioned lions. Make the tourists hold a stick each to make them feel brave(please excuse me while I break into uncontrollable laughter). I suppose you could send along a bunch of guides.
- Step 4: Take a headcount and limbcount at the end of the walk. Missing tourists are bad for tourism.
- Step 5: Laugh all the way to the bank.
Basically, the Casela National Park animal keepers train the lions to the point that they do not attack any tourists who are accompanied by the keepers. In all other aspects, they are still wild. They hunt, they fight and display all the aggression, ferocity and yes, playfulness of their species.
Also, you are given a stick to hold on to which is an added signal to the lion that you are not to be attacked. The lions are not tame in any way. They have just been barely trained to reign in their aggressive instincts to a small extent when accompanied by their keepers.
For our walk, we were accompanied by four National Park Keepers, a bunch of tourists and two Lionesses. The lionesses were: a white lioness named Pizula and a tawny one named Sinanga.
Pallavi: Yash you remember the names of the lionesses who would have preferred to eat you and don’t remember the names of the Animal Keepers who were there to save your scrawny butt. Doesn’t that indicate something to you about your geeky personality?
Me: Hmmmmm… No.
Pallavi: <Rolling her eyes>
We really would have liked to walk with lions instead of lionesses as I think they look more majestic and beautiful and drop dead awesome (Go ahead .. call me a Male Chauvinist) but as per the keepers, males tend to be lazy and moody and not always active so early in the morning (wonder why Pallavi is laughing her head off..).
Anyhoo.. back to the walk..We received some preliminary instructions from the keepers.
- No sudden movements.
- Always keep the stick in your hands.
- When we ask you to pat the lions(I can’t believe we did this and I can’t believe that I am using the words “pat” and “Lion” in the same sentence), do not pat it like you would pat your grandma’s little awww-cho-cute kitten. Pat Thump it with a firm hand. If you pat it softly, it will think that it is being buzzed by flies and will take a bite out of your hand(ouch!).
- Stay with the group. If you lose sight of the group, be afraid. Be very afraid!
- Do not touch the back of the lion’s neck as they take it as a threat.
- Please try to smile for the photos.
Now I will let my pictures do most of the talking..
And they lead in the Furred, Feline Beauties
Walking with Sinanga.
And here we get to actually pat Pizula.
The fact that these lionesses are quite wild was brought home to us in quite a dramatic fashion when Pallavi tried to pat Pizula.
Despite the instruction from the keepers, she patted Pizula with a light touch instead of giving the lioness a firm patting. Before we realized it, Pizula turned her neck and snapped at Pallavi’s hand! Thankfully, Pallavi pulled her hand back with a shriek and the keepers calmed Pizula down. No harm done except maybe to our blood pressures.
Then there was Sinanga. Her favourite and supposedly playful activity was to run ahead of the group, hide behind a tree and jump on Pizula when she passed by the tree!
As if these shenanigans were not enough, a few minutes later, Sinanga apparently smelled out some prey nearby and rushed right off! Pizula went running after her friend and some of the keepers had to go running after them to get them back.
Man those ladies sure know what they want out of life!
About 10 minutes later, the keepers led back the two lionesses. They had smelled some wild boar and had started chasing them. It was only with great difficulty and some bribery in the form of some chopped meat that the keepers were able to get them back for the walk.
And now we come to my favourite pics from this day..
The keepers got Pizula to climb up a tree.
Totally Obvious Side Note: If any misguided dumbass tells you to climb a tree when you are being chased by a lion; DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT! Lions don’t just climb trees. They literally run up the trunk of the tree like they were born for it! If you want to avoid a lion by climbing up a tree, you need to find a tree which you can climb faster than the lion and which the lion can’t climb. Good luck with that Mr. Dead Meat.
Anyways, the keepers got Pizula to climb up a tree and we got our pics taken with Pizula looking down at us like I would look at a plate of Aloo Paranthas with a side order of mango pickles.
And finally my absolute favourite pic of the entire trip.
The precise moment when Pallavi realized that the 100 Kilo bundle of pointy clawed, sharp toothed ferocity sitting above us, probably sees us as lunch.
Thank you so much Sinanga and Pizula for not eating us.
After this we got to see some Lion cubs and also explored the zoo for a while.
Then it was time for …
Zip Lining was awesome fun but the part which was most scary and exciting was the Burma Bridge Crossing.
This is Burma Bridge Crossing:
Yep..500 metres of shaky cable and plank bridge suspended over a gorge with awesome views of the park and the soundtrack being provided by your knocking knees.
I would like to think that I have a good head for heights but the 20 minute walk across the Burma bridge was seriously scary. Yes we had safety lines and even if we had slipped, we wouldn’t have fallen. Try telling that to your mind.
Gotta say Pallavi did it like a champ. I could see that she was scared too but she just kept walking, one step in front of another and pretty soon she was across. There is an awesome life lesson right there.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
How do you cross a 500 metre chasm on a shaky plank bridge? One step at a time!
Ok.. enough with the fruity self help talk.
It was Zip Lining Time.We went through three zip lining courses and each of them was mind-blowing..
Yes we had a safety line. Yes it was still scary.
Go on it is just a small step :)
My plan for tandem skydiving with Pallavi was shot down by Pallavi on the grounds that I am legally insane and was probably dropped on my head when I was a baby leading to an unfortunate and incurable case of my brains having leaked out of my ears.
And with that I conclude my Mauritius trip chronicles. I have not included everything that we saw or did.I have mainly included the highlights.
If anyone is planning a trip to Mauritius, drop in a comment and I will help you out any ways I can.