In a letter written after her February attack, Neha Sharma describes the moment a trip to the lion enclosure at the Kudus Rus safari park nearly turned deadly.
Fifteen-year-old Neha and her parents had been led to the lion cage by a ranger. The high school student had been walking ahead of her parents and had entered the cage with the ranger when the lions attacked.
“The lions were as tall as me and attacked my head… I could hear lions’ teeth crunching on my head and biting my arms and chest,” she wrote.
“While I was passing out I could hear mum and dad screaming for help.”
Sharma’s father, Dr Raghwa Sharma, told Fairfax Media he and his wife were forced to watch as their daughter was mauled by the lions.
“All hell broke loose. The lions are mauling my daughter. What can you do? You yell. You shout. There’s no back-up.”
“The reception people are a good 300 metres away. Nobody listens, there’s no neighbours, nothing. There’s nothing for you. There’s nothing left. We thought we were all going to die,” he said.
Neha eventually regained consciousness and was able to escape the cage.
She underwent surgery in South Africa and spent nearly a week in hospital recovering from injuries to her head, neck, chest, thighs and arms.
The family chose to speak out in the wake of the death of an American tourist in South Africa.
29-year-old Katherine Chappell was traveling in a van when a lion lunged at her through the window and fatally bit her.
Ms Chappell had been in South Africa volunteering to help protect native wildlife.