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Dancing with Lions (Not really…)

There is a Zimbabwean proverb that says, “God is good, but never dance with a lion.” But on our last trip to Tanzania, my best friend and I WISHED we could get out of our car and play with the lion cubs we met…

 "Dancing with Lions" - Ndutu, Tanzania 2016

"Dancing with Lions" - Ndutu, Tanzania 2016

We left before sunrise in hope of finding some big cats. Better still, CUBS! We drove no more than five minutes from our camp, and there they were: a pride of three lioness and five or six cubs right on the road. It was still dark outside, and the car’s headlights shone on their faces and reflected in their beautiful eyes.

 "Before Dawn's Light"

We were so excited to see them, but they were all so tired they barely moved.
Once in a while, one would open his eyes, yawn, and stare dreamily into the space, but that was it.

 
 "Windows to the Soul"
 

Though my friend wanted to stay all day with these cubs, I was hoping to photograph something a bit more "animated". So we went off in search of our next animal.
Fifteen minutes later, our driver's friend—another guide—called to let him know the cubs woke up and started playing.
So we drove back, and—sure enough!—they were all running around, playing in the mud!
The lesson? PATIENCE! Good things come to those who wait!

 Lion Cubs at Play

While their mothers watched from afar, the cubs were having the time of their lives!

 Lioness watching over her cubs

Their playground consisted of tiny little mounds, a few bushes, and lots of mud!

 Lion Cubs in their Playground

There was lots of splashing........

 
 Cub Splashing in the Water
 

Lots of mud........

 Muddy Cub

Some drinking......

 Drinking Cub

And lots of jumping.....

 Leaping Lion

......mostly to avoid the big puddles!

 Leaping Lion

At one point, when the Moms decided to stretch their bones and join the fun, the cubs’ joy was endless!

 Lioness at Play with her Cubs

Then one of the cubs, who we affectionately named “Bucket Boy”, found a plastic…. Bucket!

 Bucket Boy
 Bucket Boy

It was amazing how this strange toy changed the game: now, instead of playing Hide-and-Seek or Tag, the game became to try to get the bucket from Bucket Boy. But no one stood a chance: BB was determined, and sauntered around proud as a peacock with his prize.

 Chasing the Prized Bucket

After a few hours, they all grew tired and decided to take a nap under a tree.
Their games ended in perfect timing: just before they closed the breakfast buffet at our lodge. We drove away hungry for food, but very satisfied!

 "Nap Time"