Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Lucky stripe me

I saw a web-link recently of an exhibition of photographs featuring children interacting with traditionally wild animals in zoo-like settings. I went back to find it just now and after marathon googling have been unsuccessful. So even though I don’t have the link the exhibition reminded me of something I wanted to share.

One of the most exciting things to ever happen to me in my 30 years of existence happened in good ol Australia. I was on a work related trip confirming a incentive holiday for 300 delegates of a fizzy drink company. Our partner in Australia and I were doing our best to convince the cola company rep that we were indeed providing a valuable/ economical service. Everything went to plan. To end our few days of reconnaisance on the Gold Coast our Aussie Tour company organised a trip to Tiger island in the Dream World theme park. 4 new tiger cubs had been born just weeks before in October 1998 and by special arrangement we got to go into their temperature controlled nursery and I got to hold one of them in the palm of my hand for about 15 minutes. It was a boy cub and he was tiny & unbelieveably soft. Much like a pup he slept peacefully through it all, purring softly whilst he dreamt. (The 4 cubs got named through a huge competition. Bengal tigers with Indian names: Sita, Rama, Taj and Sultan)

I thought holding a cub was utterly exciting but hardly. We then got ushered into a separate enclosure and 4 of us got to pat & be photographed with a huge tiger called Rakhan for about 25 minutes. Although it is a possible to pay and get this done now, at that time they were just experimenting with the idea and we got one of the earlier 'tester' opportunities. Rakhan is a huge male tiger and sat quietly growling only because one of his handlers rolled around a blue dustbin in front of him – something he is mortally afraid off despite the fact that he weighs over a 150kgs and could probably dismember a persons head from body with one light swoop of his giant paws! This was the most wonderful surprise organised by our partner; more so because it was completely unexpected wildly unimaginable.

I remember how soft his fur was and how I could feel his muscles ripple under his skin. I remember how majestically he sat and allowed me to pat and stroke his back. I remember how directly he looked at the camera and how every few minutes he would turn his head slightly to both sides to make sure he could see his trainer and then look to see who was patting him. I remember how powerless I felt next to this wild animal. I remember smiling broadly, not so much for the camera, more in disbelief that I was right there next to this amazing animal. I remember thinking that this was a moment I would never forget. I remember how wonderful I felt, how blessed to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I remember how the minutes just slipped away leaving me with prints in my hands and on my heart.

I was no child when this happened. I can only imagine the excitement running through the veins of those children being photographed with the animals. As an aware adult the feeling was probably less primal but no less wonderful than for children. I must find that link!!!

I have all the wonderful photographs of this trip kept safely. I’ve tacked one onto my fridge to be my constant lucky charm.

When I am old and defunct I will always have this memory to bring me a smile and remind me of how exciting my young life was.