Badaling Safari: Too Thrilling to be Safe
By melinchina on Mar 31, 2008
On Friday we went on a team-building event - tree planting and then a safari at 八达岭野生动物世界, a wild animal park north of Beijing. The tree-planting part was great - a light snow was falling and it was absolutely beautiful. I remember hoping that you'd be able to tell from the pictures that it was snowing that day. Yeah, be careful what you wish for. (Thanks to Aaron, Yong and Xue for these pictures!)
Then we loaded onto park buses and started through the wild animal park.
The first stop on the safari was the wolf exhibit.
Next brown bears. Awesome.
As our tour progressed the snow was falling harder and harder, and pretty soon it was what I would call by Alabama standards a blizzard. And the road through the safari park was hilly and narrow.
Next stop was the lions' den. Ferocious. And do you see how close we were to them? These shots were not taken with a telephoto lens. The animals were literally right outside our window, not caged in or anything.
Then the tiger exhibit. Way cool.
And then the bus got stuck in the snow.
And that was terrifying. Because we couldn't get out and push the bus. Couldn't shovel snow. Because we were in the tiger exhibit and tigers were walking all around the bus. Then our bus slid back a bit and off the road and leaned up against a tree. A thick branch of the tree pushed hard against one of the sliding glass windows and I had a terrifying foreshadowing that the window could shatter and a tiger could climb through it and ...
The bus driver and our tour guide were not exactly confidence-inspiring. They had called the park manager to come get us but when no one had showed up to help us after half an hour, the driver and guide seemed helpless.
I sent my husband a text message that said, "stuck in snow at the badaling safari. surrounded by tigers. if i don't make it out, please remarry. i love you." Apparently I didn't do a very good job communicating the gravity of the situation because he replied "You're funny. What's our ebay password?"
Finally a park manager did arrive and climbed from the window of his jeep through the window of our bus. He managed to navigate the bus away from the tree without breaking the window, thank God. Then he spent the next hour-and-a-half backing the bus out of the park inch by inch down the snowy road. Fortunately he managed this feat without killing any humans or animals.
So what did I learn from this? I learned that you can't make assumptions about safety. You can't assume that just because someone opened a safari park that they maintain a fleet of good vehicles, or train their staff or have evacuation plans in place in case the unthinkable happens. If something seems too thrilling to be safe, it probably is...
And I learned, once again, that my team can show good humor in the face of adversity. As we were waiting for the park staff to arrive and wondering if we would ever get out of this situation alive, one guy from the back laughed, "This will be something to blog about!"