By Charly Solomon, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017
During my experience in South Africa, I drove six hours to Botlierskop Private Game Reserve for a three day-two night safari. During this time, I opted into a Cat Walk Tour where I had the opportunity to walk with two lions, Cleopatra and Clementine. I spoke with the guide for our tour about the possible drugging of these animals to tame them during the walks; however, he assured me that they never were or will be drugged but rather experienced being around people. The Cat Walk is an additional fee above the price of the safari and is one of the most expensive additional excursions available at the reserve.
While I was there, it seemed to be a very popular excursion amongst our group; however, after inquiring with the owners of the tour company, I found that it is not overloaded with tourists as there are only two tours per day with a maximum of eight participants each. During our time there, they did a total of four tours per day, but each lion still only did a maximum of two walks per day. According to the Plog’s model, tourists who participate in this type of tour are closer to the allocentric side of the continuum as this may be considered to be out of the typical travel destinations and experiences. Although the lions were tame for much of the walk, it is still a large guessing game as you never know when a lion can go out of control and become aggressive. This was a wonderful tour because not only were the guides very knowledgeable, but they also made sure that we felt and remained safe while we were with the lions.