For Christmas instead of buying a present each per person we ask that people get us a family ticket to somewhere, Gulliver’s World, The Wild Boar park, something like that. In this case Mrs Bergs Father had bought us tickets to Chester Zoo.
As a family we love Zoos. We love nature in general and there is such a vast array of animals that we are all winners. We even managed to bring some hired help in the form of my parents.
To top it off it was a gorgeous sunny day, most of the animals was out. All except the tigers, my favourite, who seemed content to hide up in their treetop hideaway a good distance away from the zoom of my camera.
That aside we had a brilliant time. Until disaster struck. We were on our way out, the wardens had been calling time and been ushering people to the exits and we had begun trailing back to the entrance.
A final check of everything revealled that Catty my younger sons favourite stuffed toy had been lost. After a debate it was decided that Catty must have been left at the picnic table, right at the other side of the park.
I did what any other devoted father would do. I made my way accross the 20 minute (at least) trek over the far side of the Zoo. I knew I didn’t have time so I jogged lightly, anxious that the lost toy may get picked up or moved.
Past the elephants, over the big bridge with the cheetahs underneath, past the seemingly empty tiger cage. I laughed as the Lion jogged along with me as I passed.
The Zoo was empty of people by the time I got to the picnic table. I checked on and under the table, around the park, on the slide my son had been playing on. But there was no luck Catty wasn’t here.
I tried to call my mum to tell her the bad news, but after a day of taking pictures my battery was lucky to be on one percent and as my signal finally caught, it ran out.
Sadly I began to pick my way back to the entrance. But without a soul in sight it took on an eery tone. The light faded too and I was tired and in honest a little freaked out.
I walked onward, and as I passed the tiger enclosure I looked up at the treetops to get a final view.
Suddenly I stopped. There in full view looking at me was a ginormous tiger. It was sat calm, watching me only 3-4 feet away at most. I moved my hand for my phone but remembered I had no battery.
I was suddenly aware that there was no-one else around.
Time stood still.
When my cats at home are playing I can see when they are playing with something they adopt a stalk pose, ready to stike, and you play a game when you hold your hand out and try to move it away in time.
Frozen in his gaze, I realised the tiger was giving me the same pose.
Frozen in his gaze, it felt like there was no cage between us. I was genuinely frightened. I could sense the power that the tiger had. Those moments felt like hours.
Then, the tiger pounced. In all his glory he leapt forward, teeth bared, claws posed and he bounced off the metal cage, roaring loudly.
My heart leapt and jumped back, shaking with excitement.
Had the cage not been there I doubt there was much I could have done to prevent myself becoming tiger food.
I smiled as the tiger wandered off into his cage. I had shared something that no-one in the park that day had experienced. A one to one with the mighty jungle predator.
I ran back to the entrance elated.
Thanks to my noble efforts as a father, I had been given a unique look at my favourite animal.
To round the day off, Catty was in the bottom of the pram the whole time. So my son went home happy too.