Hayley Matthews: How I almost ended up as food for lions

Hayley drove into the lions den with her car boot open
Hayley drove into the lions den with her car boot open
Have your say

How I ended up driving through a Scottish safari park with my car boot open is a great story and it’s one I’ll get mileage out of for a long time. I escaped the big cats’ dinner menu all thanks to a watchful park ranger, so thank you to the moon and back for your eagle eye.

How this happened exactly, I’ll get to further on. Being a cat lover I would have loved a wee roll about the grass with the lions, although this is strictly forbidden. But where are the lions in Scotland I hear you ask? Well, it all started with a chat I was having the other week with a good friend who suggested we take our kids to Blair Drummond Safari Park on the May bank holiday.

I was ashamed to admit to my friend that I’d never been. She said how the kids would love it and so would I. We’ve got three boys between us and, with the weather forecast predicting a sunny 20 degrees, we decided to make it a date.

It took us just over an hour in the car from Edinburgh and the chat on the way from two six-year-old boys was hilarious, they were very excited. When we arrived, the fun park caught their attention big time and they certainly had their share of shots on the giant slide! My friend had been several times so she mapped out a route for us and suggested things like the boat ride to Chimpanzee Island, the elephants and giraffes and then to go drive through the lions and monkeys on the way out.

READ MORE: Living with an owl is ‘a hoot’, says Scottish safari park keeper

We were all talking about what animal we’d love to be as we looked at the giraffes. They are so graceful and elegant looking, gliding along chewing on the grass-filled barrels hanging higher than you can imagine. My friend adores them and I loved seeing these big gentle creatures up close. It was also lovely to see the elephant up close, living in a large space with lots of activity stations.

My friend suggested that we leave the drive-through safari until the end because it’s quite a nice way to finish the trip.

I’d joked with her and the kids earlier about my dodgy clutch and how the car could easily break down in the middle of the safari. Our imaginations were running wild. I also joked that it would be incredibly cool if a huge dinosaur came trundling along out the gates, as there is a Jurassic Park feel to the safari which makes it very exciting.

I started to scare myself a little so decided to shut up. The place is incredibly secure and the gates are manned by guards. We waited on the green light as we listened to the safety advice about “keeping all windows shut and staying in your vehicle at all times”.

READ MORE: Scotland’s second last elephant, ‘gentle giant’ Toto, dies aged 47

As we drove into the safari, a park ranger flashed his lights and waived us down. “Your boot is open!” he exclaimed with a look of horror on his face.

“Omg is it really?” I asked? Oh yes, it was wide open and bulging with picnic goodies, blankets, toys and a buggy.

Luckily this happened in the area just before the lions so all was well. We had a right good laugh and the kids found it hilarious.

A great story to tell their friends and a wonderful experience to see all these amazing animals being very well cared for.

Next time though, I think we’ll take my friend’s car!