When I was 18 I came a bit stuck in life, I’d finished college and had been working in my local pub to make some money. I had been applying for any job going that meant I could go abroad! Suddenly I got a reply from one which I couldn’t remember applying for! It was looking after injured birds of prey. They were very interested and invited me to a telephone interview (the days before Skype). When I had my interview I noticed the man talking had a strange accent, he then said he would like to offer me the role and he’d sort my flights! My flights I wondered! Asking the man ‘sorry, where am I flying to?’ This is when I found out the Job was out in the middle of nowhere in South Africa!
I told my family and friends that I had accidentally got a job there, but then I thought ‘f**k it’ let’s go! I flew out to South Africa and was greeted by a Steve Irwin lookalike who drove me 7hrs to near the Kruger National park. I was quickly introduced to the very eccentric boss called Brian, who for some reason decided I was called Ramsey! He gave me a tour, mostly around all the big cats which he seemed far more interested in. He also introduced me to an orphaned baby Hippo called Humphrey (he later killed a man)
I settled in quickly getting to work caring for mainly blind and injured owls, but I would jump at the chance to help with the big cats and other animals which were in the rehabilitation centre. Going into pens each day was a challenge in itself, each fence had a snake fence running along the bottom of it. A length of electric wire designed to kill snakes coming into the centre. But one day we found a huge Python killed leaving the centre! It’s belly full of rabbits which were used a food for the cats. Being in a centre full of students vets, it was quickly being cut open out of their curiosity to see such an impressive snake!
Days were always entertaining and the treat for the week was a trip to the local bar on a Thursday. We would all eat and have a few beers (being 18 I’d usually have more then a few). Then one Thursday night when we were all at the bar we received a urgent phone call. A injured leopard was being rushed in, so it was all hands on deck! We all rushed back to the centre to help, I staggered my way up to the main part following the crowd! We carried the cage in and prepared the pen where she’d be kept. She was heavily sedated, so we dragged her in. Then Brian noticing I was drunk said ‘Ramsay bite her tale, it’ll will start bringing her around’ so I grabbed this sleeping big cats tale, put it in my mouth and bit it! Brian fell to the floor laughing whilst I nibbled on the tale!
The centre was also helping educate local farmers not to shoot cheetahs. So it had two semi tame cheetahs which it used to give talks and demonstrate how endangered the cats were. One day whilst I helped pick up poo from the cheetahs pen whilst the cats were in a holding pen, one managed to wiggle its way through a small gap back into the main pen. Unable to resist my wriggling arse it slowly sneeked up behind me. I was completely unaware I was being hunted at this time and carried on picking up poo, suddenly I felt two hands on my shoulders, so I stood up to see if anyone was there. Not realising I had a cheetah on my back! Now cheetahs claws are like the spikes on running shoes and always out, so as I turned the cheetah slipped running those claws down my shoulder! So I’m left with an impressive scar from my time in South Africa and my time with Juba the Cheetah.
It’s not often an 18 year old returns home after being attacked by a big cat! But I love every second of it! So go find your adventure and let me know about it