A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity
Have you ever experienced one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities? I did in July, 2008 on a business trip to Bali, when the opportunity was suddenly presented and I impulsively moved forward to grasp it with both hands.
A friend and I flew to Bali from Perth, as I was writing an article about the Bali Zoo for an in-flight magazine. Pam and I quickly settled into our hotel and happily toasted the glorious tropical sunset with a bottle of duty free champagne. Our room had a balcony jutting out into the luch verdant garden which hummed with birdlife, cheeky squirrels and hovering butterflies and was the perfect spot for us to sit and watch the world below at any time of the day or night.
The following day I had an appointment with the manager of the Bali Zoo, located in the mountains behind Denpasar, near Ubud. My regular Balinese driver Ketut made short work of the narrow, winding roads which were crowded with motor bikes carrying entire Balinese families or laden with bamboo cages containing chickens, ducks or small pigs, all destined for a cooking pot in any of the rambling villages we passed. In Bali, people are hard at work everywhere you look - tending rice paddies, carving garden ornaments, throwing clay pots, painting huge lengths of fabric with wax and dyes to form glorious batiks or maybe beating copper or silver into unique pieces of jewellery.
Arriving at the Zoo, Pam and I were met by the manager Agung and commenced our tour. The Bali Zoo is located in the beautiful established garden of a former Dutch trader, who collected tropical plants and trees. Nestled within the huge trees and bushes, the Zoo had erected cages and natural habitats for their collection of mainly local Indonesian animals and birds. Well kept paths wound through the jungle-like foliage, linking the various exhibits and Pam and I commented on how spotlessly clean the Zoo looked and sme
lled as we followed Agung along the winding paths past animals of all shapes and sizes.
We were given many opportunities to pat or nurse a variety of birds, reptiles and animals, but the best was saved 'til last, when we stopped for a well earned cold drink at the large cafe at midday. Hot and 'glowing' from our long and circuitous tour through the steamy jungle surroundings, an icy cold Coca Cola never tasted so good! “Mrs Annie, Mrs Annie,” called Agung, “Please to come here for something special for Mrs Annie.”
As I walked over to Agung, I saw he held a ball of golden fluff in his arms. I opened my arms to hold the snarly, growly animal, only to discover that I was nursing a small lion cub. I rested him on his back, in the crook of my elbow and started stroking his chest and tummy. His fur was quite wiry and coarse but he loved the stroking and my instinctive maternal crooning. The growling stopped; he opened his eyes to look up at me and a rumbling began in his chest – he was purring!
I guess I nursed the 4 week old lion cub for 5 or so minutes until a small child began wailing and the cub, startled, reverted to his earlier snarling and grumbling. Reluctantly I returned him to the keeper, who whisked him back to his anxious mother, pacing behind the bars of her enclosure, with eyes rivetted on her baby. As we watched, she sniffed him all over and began washing him with great licks of her enormous serrated tongue, removing all traces of my Diorissimo perfume from her baby.
This is one of the most memorable opportunities of my life and I’m so delighted that Pam took a photo to capture that sense of wonder I felt as the tiny lion cub layback in my arms and purred. Sheer magic!
You have a memory that only a handful of people in the whole world can share, Annie. This is a great place to share your story. And the photo is smashing!
Oh, Annie!!! What a spectacular experience! I'm fascinated to know the fur was coarse and wiry, by the way - I've wondered how wild animal fur might feel.
I grew up with Walt Disney movies in which birds and small mammals continually perched atop the shoulders or fingertips of Cinderella or Snow White or whomever, and I confess to a childish delight at the thought of, in your case, getting to stroke and cuddle a creature so wondrous as a baby lion. I'm jealous!!
Your story is wonderful! What a choice once-in-a-lifetime moment. And your descriptions have really captured the feeling of your story. Amazing experience!