There are very few things more hilarious than watching kittens wrestle and play. Now imagine watching giant kittens play. Can't do much more than just chuckle. Thats how it is with lion cubs. When you first see them in person, you expect something different. Perhaps more serious. Perhaps a little more wild. But what you really have is very little different than the attitude of a house cat.
It was our second night in Botswana. We saw our first lion a few hours earlier on our morning drive, quite an experience, but we didn't have a lot of time with them. After just a few minutes, we had to pack up and head back to camp. We took our ritual nap paired with tea and breakfast, just anxious for the afternoon ahead. As the afternoon finally rolled around we prepared, loading our gear in the car. It was pretty easy to tell something was up, our guides were all smiles.
We hopped in the range rover and were off. They didn't say much, even Greg was very quite. There wasn't any stopping, you could tell we were going somewhere. After a handful of minutes we arrived at a dense forest area, thick and almost a wall of brush. You could tell the three of them were getting excited, they were looking forward to how we would react for our first time. Eric pulled that car through the thicket as if it were a maze, and he knew the path, weaving through it, turn by turn.
Seconds later we emerged in the clearing. It wasn't large, a few yards wide in each direction, but sitting square in the middle were a large group of cubs, seven in total. Four small ones cubs, and three that were perhaps a year older. There is a noticeable size difference between them, quite noticeable, but they play just the same.
I spent most of my time focusing on these two (pictured above). They both had attitudes about them that commanded attention and were by far the most active and most vocal of the bunch. It was as if they were straight out of the old tasmanian devil cartoon of my childhood, rolling and spinning around each other at dizzying speeds. They were a blur most of the hour we were there, so much energy and action. When they started to get worked up, and a little rougher, things got even funnier, as each time they would try to one up the other.
The group rolled and played most of the night as we sat there. Biting, clawing and pouncing on one another. After a few minutes of photography, I had to just set my gear down for a second and watch. You can't help but smile as the group rolled around, squealing and growling at each other. After snapping a few hundred photos of the group, we headed on our way. We didn't want to disturb the group when the parents got back. I wont forget that anytime soon, nor will I forget laughing with the rest of our group as we recounted the story on the drive further out into the bush.
These are the type of experiences that you just can't replicate. Those moments that no matter how long it has been, you can't help but smile.
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