The tiger crouches at the edge of the enclosure. The only movement is a slight flick of the tip of his tail. His eyes are focused on his prey, and his body is taut, ready to pounce. His prey has just entered through the gate and looks like he is oblivious to the predator’s scrutiny. The prey is relaxed, as if this is just another day. But it isn’t.
I stand on the other side of the fence holding my breath, unable to cry out. My heart is pounding in my chest in anticipation and fear of what I am about to witness. The prey turns back to the gate and locks it. He stands about six feet tall, a handsome man.
The cat erupts in movement, a fluid blur of orange and black.
This was a moment in an incredible day at Out of Africa, a wildlife park in Camp Verde, Arizona. My sisters, aunt and I had discovered this park a few years ago when papa passed and we needed an outing to lift our spirits. The experience was exactly what we needed, swelling our hearts with love and awe of these magnificent creatures. I was overwhelmed by the variety of animals at the park, but I was completely enamored with Chalet, a majestic white tiger. She commanded my attention, and throughout the day, I kept making my way back to her habitat to take in her beauty.
In the several years since that day, I’ve been yearning to go back to the park. So when my sister Janice and I got the chance over the holiday break, we made the trek back out to Arizona. This time we went with one of my sisters that hadn’t been able to go last time. You may remember her from one of my previous Unseen Resident blogs – Judy.
One of the greatest things in the park is the Tiger Splash show. It is absolutely unbelievable. http://youtu.be/1omAfM4YVPs Please watch the video. It is definitely worth your time!
While last time I was there I fell in love with Chalet, this time I was mesmerized by the hyenas. Yes, hyenas. I’d always thought of them as vile creatures, since that’s the way they tend to be portrayed in movies (like Lion King). They are truly amazing and smart animals, and OMG so darned cute! Here’s a video of our guide interacting with them. http://youtu.be/sRofWeTpVp0
Even though the hyenas look soft and cuddly, and the guide and trainers will pet them through the fence, the hyenas have enough strength in their jaws to break a giraffe’s femur! Definitely not a good prognosis for your arm if a hyena gets a hold of it. I’ll stay on this side of the fence, thank you very much.