Mokoroing we go!

Following an entire night long hippo party taking place in our front yard/lagoon – there was a herd of twenty of them who splashed, sang and frolicked all night long, thank you very much! If you have never heard hippos singing it is a sound not to be missed, although it will keep you awake at night. To be fair, there were lots of others guilty of violating the sound curfews including elephants, jackals, hyenas and big cats. But who wants to tell them to hold the noise down? Not me for sure!

Hippo Party Land
Hippo Party Land

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Following our wake up tea and coffee ensuite in our tent and gathering for a light breakfast in the main lodge, it was time to venture out into the site of last night’s party as the sun was coming up.

Our morning activity was to explore the water ways right off our camp site in the Okavango’s main mode of transportation, the Mokoro. The mokoro is a dugout canoe which is about  20 feet (6 meters) in length and normally crafted from the trunks of trees which have been hollowed out by hand. Although now the government is promoting the use of fibreglass Mekoros so that there is less strain on the tree population in the Delta.

Our transport awaits
Our transport awaits

Mekoros are used by many of the local people of the Okavango for traversing and fishing the channels. They are now one of the iconic symbols of the Delta and are a popular way for guests at camps to explore the Okavango while on safari. Traditionally the mokoro transports two people along with a poler. The poler stands at the back and uses a pole to propel the boat forward with a long pole called a ngashi. It is amazing how silent these boats move and how quickly! But one had to wonder who would get the right away if we encountered one of the “hung over” hippos among the reeds.

Getting settled for our Mokoro trip
Getting settled for our Mokoro trip
Heading out
Heading out

The beauty of being on the water among the lily pads and reeds was incredible!

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Lily pads and touch me nots
Lily pads and touch me nots
I think a hippo is hiding in there
Playing hide and seek among the reeds

I tried kissing this guy but he didn’t turn into my handsome prince but it was worth a shot!

My handsome prince
My handsome prince

The perspective from being so low down was amazing…

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Major who is poling needs to duck
Major who is poling needs to duck
Just one of the beautiful water lilies that we paddled by
Just one of the beautiful water lilies that we paddled by
Peek a boo!
Peek a boo!

 

Termite Island
Termite Island

After a couple of hours of silently or not so silently moving around the waterways with Major providing us with all of the fact about local flora, fauna and wildlife it was time to stop for a “comfort break” – a trip into the bushes to relieve full bladders and our mid morning snack! I told you it was an eating safari too!

We stopped on the other side of this termite mound and stretched our legs while the polers/trackers set up our morning tea/coffee break.

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Our morning stop also included some fun including posing with a giraffe skull

 

Giraffe skull
Giraffe skull

 

But soon it was time to get back in our mokoros and start the trek back to camp but first we paid a closer visit to a friend who joined us for our morning break.

Let's hope he likes having his picture taken
Let’s hope he likes having his picture taken

 

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A sea of water lilies
A sea of water lilies

 

Beautiful grasses waving above our heads
Beautiful grasses waving above our heads

 

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Heading home
Heading home

 

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Traffic jam on Hippo Highway
Traffic jam on Hippo Highway

 

Land in sight
Land in sight

 

Back at Camp Pom Pom
Back at Camp Pom Pom

Once we were safely back on land it was time to eat again! It was now just after 11 am and after being out on the water since before 7 am the amazing culinary staff of Camp Pom Pom had a wonderful brunch just waiting for our arrival.

With full bellies from brunch it was back to our tents and a couple of hours of relaxing before we headed back out for our afternoon game drive.

 

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Safari time at Camp Pom Pom

Safariing is hard work! Now granted all you have to do is get dressed properly, make sure that you have visited the loo and show up on time, it still really hard work.

I have been on numerous game drives since coming to Botswana last September but I have never actually been on safari before. Luckily, I had a wonderful introduction to it at Camp Pom Pom. As I mentioned before, we completely lucked out with our guide, Rams and tracker, Major.

The happy trio of Rams, me and Major relaxing during Sundowner time on Safari
The happy trio of Rams, me and Major relaxing during Sundowner time on Safari

Rams, as I noted earlier, was a sweetheart who shares many similarities with Buche, including driving styles and went where others feared to tread…including Buche, who was dismayed when I showed him these pictures,

Did I sign up for a water safari?
Did I sign up for a water safari?
Is this a Safari truck or a boat?
Is this a Safari truck or a boat?

So while Rams navigated us around land, water, mud, airstrips and just about anywhere else you could throw in, Major spent his time amusing us and being on the look out for wildlife.

Major's winning smile
Major’s winning smile

Major also has other claims to fame. Check out his singing on this YouTube video posted by a previous camper http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHSvKoUFd0U

With these two capable gentlemen taking care of us and catering to all of our needs, we happily set out for our first game drive after a huge brunch and a siesta. They don’t call this an eating safari for nothing!

Shortly after leaving camp we crossed Pom Pom International Bridge and let’s just say that Cheryl almost made history and became famous

Pom Pom International Bridge
Pom Pom International Bridge

While this bridge is remarkable in its construction having been built by the staff of the Camp Pom Pom and capable of withstanding a huge heavy safari vehicle stopping mid way on it so that the wildlife and birds can be viewed, it is a bit of a rough ride. Being a short, round bouncy person, I found it a bit of a challenge to not bounce right out of the safari truck straight down into the swamps and wetlands joining the birds, crocs and fishes. When I queried Rams if he had ever lost a guest out of the truck, he prompted responded no but figured that I might be his first! In that case, I would become famous and perhaps they would even rename the bridge after me 🙂

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So with me still safely in the truck and Rams prepared to check his rearview mirror every so often to ensure that I was still on board, we set out to find some wildlife.

It didn’t take long to start spying lots of great game

Elephants galore
Elephants galore

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Even when there wasn’t any game in sight the scenery was beautiful

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Impala bum view
Impala bum view

 

In my opinion, ugly birds!
In my opinion, ugly birds!

 

up close and personal with the ugly bird family
up close and personal with the ugly bird family

During our drive, Rams and Major discovered very fresh leopard tracks so we were soon on the hunt for her.

Dedicated trackers checking the leopard tracks
Dedicated trackers checking the leopard tracks

 

What we did find were these beauties

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With the sun going down it was time for “sundowners”, an African term for drinks at sunset

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and heading back to camp for the evening where we spent the evening on an eating safari and relaxing around the campfire

our candle lit dining room
our candle lit dining room

With full bellies it was soon time to be escorted back to our tent for the night so that everyone could be well rested for the next day’s adventures. Once night had fallen on camp no guests were allowed to walk alone with out a guide or tracker to escort them as the likelihood of meeting an elephant on the pathway to the tents was incredibly high.

Elephant highway
Elephant highway

So safely escorted home it was time to put on the thermal underwear and climb into bed as the morning activities started bright and early with wake up at 6:00 am with the delivery of coffee and tea to the tent! Now that is service!

 

Camping in the Bush

Safariing is serious business in Botswana. Due to the vast expanse of wilderness and wildlife throughout the country it is a tourism industry’s dream. However, the government carefully and brilliantly regulates the industry so that it is eco-tourism at it’s best. The main aim of the industry is to provide limited access to the natural bounty that Botswana offers while providing employment and economic benefits to local communities.

Although Safari lodges are plentiful across the country giving you ready access to all of the main areas of natural beauty and wildlife, these lodges are built to prevent leaving any permanent impact on the eco-system they inhabit. Lodges never house more than 8 or 9 units for guests. All of the food is prepared on site using foods readily available where possible and I have yet to have a terrible meal in any of these places. Local residents fill the staff positions where possible. All in all I believe that the government has certainly gotten this sector of the industry right.

Camp Pom Pom certainly has gotten it right! Other than the Bushman Lodge in Ghantz nothing else can top my experience at this camp. Just when I think that I simply can not top my last wonderful experience along comes a whole new adventure that whisks me away to a land of happiness that I didn’t think was possible.

This camp is located on it’s own section of island in the middle of the Okavango Delta. It is a private concession camp which means that the land is leased from the government and all of the animals and wildlife who live there roam absolutely free. The camp is smack dab in the wetlands and is surrounded by flood planes, grasslands and huge tracts of desert. Truly a magnificent sight to behold.

Upon arrival at Camp Pom Pom, we were greeted by female staff members singing as we drove up! Talk about a warm welcome. But this was just the tip of the iceberg on the hospitality that awaited us at Camp Pom Pom.

After receiving the security briefing  by Baloo, the Camp Manager who advised us that we were smack dab in the middle of the wilderness with wild animals roaming at will through the lodge, we were escorted to our home away from home Bush Tent #6.

 

Our tent was #6 off of Elephant Highway
Our Bush tent was #6 off of Elephant Highway

The lodging at Camp Pom Pom consist of nine permanent tents and a central lodge area where the meals are served and the bar is always open. Truly it is ! You are allowed, actually encouraged to walk up to the bar and accompanying fridge to help yourself whenever you want.  Your package includes everything at Camp Pom Pom and it isn’t just a safari of wildlife. It is an eating and drinking safari as well. But much more on that later.

Welcome to #6
Welcome to #6
Our front door
Our front door

 

It was more like a tent in the trees
It was more like a tent in the trees

 

Our tree tent deck
Our tree tent deck

And we even had a welcoming party just off of our deck upon our arrival

The Elephant Welcome wagon
The Elephant Welcome wagon

 

The view to the left of our deck
The view to the left of our deck

I don’t know about you but my experience tenting certainly has never included all of the amenities that this camp offered. While the tents are canvas with permanent structures holding them up, what is contained inside was beyond what I expected. In fact, I could camp every day if I had a tent like this to do it in!

Our relaxation area
Our relaxation area complete with chairs and a lamp run by solar generator and batteries

 

Pom Pom beds

 

We even had our own loo so no going in the bushes with the hippos and elephants
We even had our own loo so no going in the bushes with the hippos and elephants

AND

Pom pom showerbush shower our very own outdoor shower so that we could shower under the stars at night if we wanted!

 

 

Now can you see why I could camp all of the time with these amenities?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on my lion friends at Antelope Park

In my support of Antelope Park in Zimbabwe and their lion program, I signed up for their monthly newsletter. I just received the newsletter for June which contained an article about the two lions, Ruvubu and Rusizi, who I joined on a bush walk.

It seems that their predatory skills continued to improve and they actually made their very first kill while on a bush walk with guests. I have to admit that I am glad that I was not there to actually witness it…I am a softy and would have found it distressing even though it is totally natural.

Here is the description of the kill that the Antelope Park newsletter provided:

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The “R” Cubs Make their First Kill

Our 11-month-old cubs, Ruvubu and Rusizi, have made their very first kill while on a walk with guests.  Rusizi had her sights set on a herd of impala early on in the walk, while Ruvubu seemed a bit disinterested and wandered off in a different direction.  It wasn’t long before the unmistakable sounds of an animal in distress were heard from the direction that Ruvubu had just gone.  The handlers raced over in the direction of the commotion and found that Ruvubu had brought down a baby impala.  His sister, Rusizi, quickly joined him and together they gained valuable experience in bringing down prey.  These daily lion walks are an imperative part of the cubs’ development and give them the opportunity for invaluable lessons such as these. This is an exciting time for any young lions and at Antelope Park we offer a unique opportunity to share in this experience.  Come join us on a lion walk to see for yourself how our cubs are progressing!

Getting to Camp Pom Pom in the “Swamps”

Early Friday morning, Buche took Risa (a fellow Canadian) and I to the airport for our 7:00 am flight from Gabs to Maun. From there we were to fly into the Delta on a tiny bush plane for the start of our adventures in the Swamps.

My thanks goes out to the amazing work of the Safari Specialists (http://www.safarispecialists.net/index.html) who were able to pull together an incredible Okavango Delta safari package at the very last minute for Risa and I. Their services are the best that I have ever dealt with.

They are located in Maun, which means they are incredibly tapped into what is happening in the Delta, all of the many camps located in the Delta & area and where the game sightings are most active at any given time. They handle all of your tour details and give you such personal service it is hard to believe. In my books, they rate as a Five Star ***** tourist company that I would highly recommend if you are even contemplating a safari in Botswana or Southern Africa region. They truly are that good!

So in the capable hands of the Safari Specialists who personally met us at the Maun airport when we landed, we were then escorted to our own private bush plane for our flight out over the vast expanse of the Delta to our first safari camp, Camp Pom Pom.

The Okavango Delta is in the upper left section of the map
The Okavango Delta is in the upper left section of the map
Map of the Central Okavango camps
Map of the Central Okavango camps – Camp Pom Pom is located in NG 27 on it’s own little island

Getting to Camp Pom Pom was a great flight on Mack Airways with our own personal pilot, Andres.

Andres and our plane
w Andres and our plane
Our Mack Air bush plane
Our Mack Air bush plane

 

The Okavango is a unique ecosystem, an inland delta situated in the middle of the largest stretch of continuous sand in the world – the Kalahari basin. This wetland lies like an oasis in an otherwise inhospitable landscape. Were land and delta meet, a mosaic of pans, grasslands, forests and lagoons provide an extremely rich and diverse habitat where a multitude of animals and birds flourish. This wetland is one of the natural wonders of the world, and is a fragile ecosystem that remains one of the world’s least spoilt and most beautiful wildernesses, and is home to various unique species e.g. sitatunga antelope and red lechwe.

Aerial view of the Delta
Aerial view of the Delta

 

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After a 45 minute flight that provided an incredible panoramic view of the expanse of the Delta swamp, flood planes and grasslands, we landed on the Camp Pom Pom air strip.

Pom Pom International Airport
Pom Pom International Airport
Pom Pom International First Aid Station
Pom Pom International First Aid Station

 

You have gotta love this type of health care on an airstrip!

Adventures in the Swamp

Sorry for the absence but for the past couple of weeks there have been major internet issues in Gaborone thanks to a faulty telecommunications line which made posting as well as emailing impossible.

Then last week I had an opportunity to take a very last minute trip to an amazing part of Botswana, the Okavanga Delta or also referred to as the “Swamps”.

The Okavanaga Delta is one of the world’s largest inland deltas and it is considered to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in Botswana. It is a delta formed by the inflow of the Okavango River, (or the Kavango River as it is known in Namibia), into the arid sands of the Kalahari Desert. The Okavango River originates on the Benguela Plateua in the highlands of Angola, and the river flows through Namibia entering Botswana at the village of Mohembo. Within Botswana, the river follows a well-defined channel formed by two parallel faults ‘the Panhandle’ for a distance of ninety-five kilometres before fanning out to create a vast network of perennial swamps and floodplains.

Part of the Okavanga River system from the air
Part of the Okavanga River system from the air

Delta

The final decision to make a five day visit to the Delta took place Tuesday afternoon and we left bright and early Friday morning for fives days and four nights in the Swamps.

It was a trip, experience and adventures of a life time so hang on because I have a ton of pictures and stories to post now that I am back. I hope that you enjoy them!

Cheryl’s Lion Adventure Dream Come True!

Well here is the concrete proof that I got as up close and personal with an actual lion as possible! I am truly thankful to the guides who accompanied us on the bush walk with the lions. At the start of our walk they happily took possession of our cameras and clicked away throughout the walk capturing photos that are truly once in a life time. And in my case, proof that I lived out my dream which I needed to show to Lawrence, Mr. Dingwa and Buche to actually prove that I did what I said I was going to do!

We headed out on the Lion Bush Walk at about 4:30 pm and after walking into the game park a little distance were joined by our two lion companions, one year old brother and sister.

Our walking mates
Our walking mates

Lions are legendary nocturnal creatures who spend the better part of the day sleeping and resting up for their night hunting activities. Like most inhabitants of Africa they seem to mind the heat and spend the daylight hours in lazy mode. This tendency to nap was extremely obvious with this pair. As the sun was still shining hot and brightly it took a while for my new friends to manage to much else rather than take rest breaks.

Once they joined us, the guides gave us ample opportunity to meet and greet while they took photos for us. I have to warn you at this point that I am lucky enough to have a significant number of photos which I am going to include here. This was a dream come true for me and these pictures are priceless so I am eager and proud to show them off. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Our initial meet and greet:

Walking out sure was tiresome
Walking out sure was tiresome
Do I have a pretty belly?
Do I have a pretty belly?

We were told that lions do this when it is hot to regulate their body temperature but I think that this guy just wanted to capture my heart.

very pretty belly

Guess who couldn’t resist a rub???? with the guides permission although it was obvious that no one had ever asked to do this before, I wonder why not?

Tummy Rub
Tummy Rub
Tummy Rub

Who gets to rub the tummy of a year old lion????????? ME

Do you see the size of his paw?
Do you see the size of his paw?
Making friends
Making friends
I told they liked to nap
I told they liked to nap
I told they liked to nap
Queen of the lions
Queen of the lions
Party is over unless I am staying to become the new lion play toy
Party is over unless I am staying to become the new lion play toy – I opted for the quick departure

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We didn’t make it very far when it was time for another rest!

Rest time again!
Rest time again!
My new sweetie
My new sweetie
Waling is sooo exhausting
Walking is sooo exhausting

happy

Falling in mutual love
Falling in mutual love
Honey, do you want a massage?
Honey, do you want a massage?
Or a scratch?
Or a scratch?
Earning my stripes as a lion tamer
Earning my stripes as a lion tamer
Okay, do you think that we might actually do some walking and hunting?
Okay, do you think that we might actually do some walking and hunting?
Finally on the move
Finally on the move

Until it is nap time again!

The perfect spot to nap
The perfect spot to nap
Honey, would you please come rub my tummy again
Honey, would you please come rub my tummy again

Fortunately the sun was quickly going down so natural instincts started to kick in and we were off and running, well sort of :

Time to hunt
Time to hunt
My experience as an expert herder came in useful
My experience as an expert herder came in useful
A break for a bum scratch x 2
A break for a bum scratch x 2

Two love

He loves me

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incredibly happy

loving it

changing directions

Leading the way home
Leading the way home

As darkness fell my two friends natural instincts certainly became apparent and it was soon time for us to part company before I became supper.

All I can say is that as you can tell by the pictures that I had a once in a life time opportunity and I don’t know anyone else who got to spend such quality time with these amazing creatures. Who knows since I have been invited back to Lawrence’s parents I just may get an chance to go exploring the bush with my new sweetie when he is even bigger and more mature…now that could be fun as well as dangerous.

The Lion Program at Antelope Park

My lion adventures started with the educational tour of the Lion breeding program at Antelope Park. The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) is one of the world’s leading conservation programs to help save the African lion from extinction.  This program is dedicated to the facilitation and promotion of sound conservation and management plans for the African lion. It takes a responsible development approach to saving and revitalizing the species while also providing substantial social, cultural, ecological and economic benefits.

The program’s primary focus is the breeding of lions and a four stage release program that acclimatizes the lions through 4 stages to the ultimate goal of release back into the wild. The lions for the initial breeding program produce cubs that are removed from their mothers at the age of three weeks old. The purpose of this is so the cubs are brought up to respect their human handlers. It is this fact that made my walk in the bush with them possible but more about that later.

The program also does research into the effects of FIV (feline Immuno Deficiency Virus, the equivalent of HIV in lions). During my tour I was told that the program had successfully produced FIV-free cubs born from lions who are both infected with FIV. While there is no known cure for FIV research for treatment and prevention is on-going at Antelope Park through the ALERT program.

My educational tour included the opportunity to get as up close and personal with adult lions as you can get. I am happy to admit that while visiting the adult lions enclosures, I was the only one who held my ground at fence, not running quickly away when a somewhat cranky male lion sought to assert his authority.

Poppa Lion enjoying his meal of zebra entrails
Poppa Lion enjoying his meal of zebra entrails

This picture was taken just before Poppa Lion decided to rush the fence to assert his dominance. Let’s just say that I was close enough to him to smell his rather stinky breathe but loved every moment of it.

Do you think it would be wise to pet him?
Do you think it would be wise to pet him?

 

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Basking in the sun
Basking in the sun

 

Enjoying her meal of a zebra's head
Enjoying her meal of a zebra’s head

 

Giving a whole new meaning to playing with your food
Giving a whole new meaning to playing with your food

 

Yummy
Yummy

 

Another lioness waiting her turn with the zebra head
Another lioness waiting her turn with the zebra head
Do you suppose that I could sneak through the fence and nap with him?
Do you suppose that I could sneak through the fence and nap with him?

Following my personal tour of the adult facilities, it was back to the main center where I had to participate in a twenty minute lecture before heading out on the Lion Bush Walk.

The lecture included more information on the release program which is comprised of four stages as I mentioned. The first phase is the breeding program and removal of cubs from their mothers at three weeks old. The next stage is introducing the lion cubs to the bush and hunting environment. Once they are about six months old they are ready to be taken out into the bush twice a day for the development of their hunting instincts. These are the lions that participate in the bush walks with humans up until they are about 18 to 20 months old.

The purpose of the bush walks are for them to gain exposure, confidence and killer instincts so that they can make their own kills for food rather than be dependent on feeding by their human handlers. The bush walk takes place in an actual Savannah that is inhibited by all of the game that one would normally encounter. Here the lions have the opportunity to learn and practice their natural killer instincts…the guides are along to ensure that the accompanying humans don’t become the prey!

Once these lion cubs mature and become proficient hunters they are then released into Stage 3 of the program. This involves moving them to a new enclosure where they will no longer have any contact with humans. The enclosure is large and contains a variety of species so that the lions can continue to hone their hunting skills. This program is extremely expensive as we were told that a single zebra or wildebeest costs approximately $1,000 dollars and the lions often kill at the rate of one or two per day.

As the lions mature and mate new offspring enter the cycle which have no human exposure. As the hunting skill level increases, other natural predators and scavengers are introduced to the environment to provide competition to the lions. The goal is to make them totally self-sufficient within an environment that replicates the wild. Cubs who grow up and mature in this stage will then be ready to be released into the wild ensuring that this species will no longer face possible extinction.

The program will take many years to complete even one full cycle and release program and as I mentioned extremely costly to undertake. However, it is the African lions best chance at survival in their native environment.

In preparation for the bush walk we were given the following instructions:

  1. Never get too low to the ground with the lions. You need to keep your eye level above theirs in order to establish dominance. 
  2. Never stray or wander away from the group as you will find yourself being stalked as prey!
  3. Always carry a large stick which can be used to distract the lions if they are attacking one of the humans on the bush walk!
  4. If the lion jumps on you don’t panic, the guides are trained to get them off of you but be prepared to suffer some heavy gashes from their paws or jaws!
  5. Never run from a lion cause that just makes it fun for them to take you down!
  6. Always obey the guides accompanying you.
  7. Have fun! Which I certainly intended to do

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lawrence and Cheryl’s Adventures at Antelope Park

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Antelope Park is on the outskirts of Gweru and my friend Lawrence surprisingly enough had never been there. He was eagerly looking forward to the time we spent there, however, he was truly not looking forward to accompanying me on the Lion bush walk for several reasons. One he is truly terrified of lions. Two, he was terrified of what I would try to do with the lions. Three, he didn’t want to be held accountable for my untimely demise at the paws and jaws of a lion in Zimbabwe.

So fortunately we were accompanied by his girlfriend, Chenai for the afternoon and evening outing.

Antelope Park  http://www.antelopepark.co.zw/ offers a vast range of activities as well as accommodations for those who wish to stay on site. The activities ranges from: Walk With Lions; Research Trip; Lion Feeding; Cub Viewing; Cub Feeding; Night ; Elephant Ride/Lunar Elephant Ride; Elephant Training; Horse Ride; Lunar Horse Game Viewing ; Game Drive; Bush Walk; Bird Viewing ; Snake Induction; Canoeing; Boat Cruise Sunset/Sunrise; and Fishing trip.

I had only a one track mind and it was all about the lions, whereas my two Zimbabwean friends had no desire to go anywhere near the object of my attentions. So once we were given our own personal guide for the day and some vigorous discussions we decided on our activities. With hearty reassurance from our guide that it was not necessary for Lawrence to actually accompany me on my lion bush walk to take pictures as my guides were willing and eager to take on that task, Lawrence was saved.

Plans were made for me to do the Lion Educational tour and Bush Walk with Lions, while Lawrence and Chenai would do the Horse Game viewing. This was going to be a huge adventure for Lawrence as he had never ridden a horse before in his life. Chenai had some horseback riding experience and like me was very excited that Lawrence was willing to give it a try.

Lawrence and I have had numerous discussions about me teaching him how to ride a horse as you often see horses around Gaborone. I grew up on a farm and riding a horse, as well as cows and bulls, was a common activity for me. I was all for Lawrence having his very own adventure!

Once decisions were made we quickly moved to the horse riding center as the next outing was fast approaching. I got to accompany Lawrence and Chenai as they prepared for their ride.

Lawrence & Chenai equipped for their adventure
Lawrence & Chenai equipped for their adventure

 

Ready to mount up!
Ready to mount up!

 

He is really doing it, I am so proud!
He is really doing it, I am so proud!

 

Making the final adjustments
Making the final adjustments

 

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Enjoying himself already!
Enjoying himself already!

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With the two kids mounted and ready to go, I gave Lawrence some riding tips to help him stay in the mount position which apparently served him well once they were underway. I instructed him on how to not to place his full foot in the stirrups so that he could kick free if in danger of being thrown; how to use the stirrups and his thighs to move with the motion of the horse and how to get the horse to move faster if he got brave enough.

Well reports after the fact indicated that Lawrence did an excellent job and in fact even changed horse’s mid-way through the ride with one of the guides as his was too slow and uncooperative making him use my riding tip for preventing being thrown. I am very proud of him tackling this adventure.

As for my Antelope Park adventures, my guide and I set out for the Lion Educational tour as soon as the horses left the enclosure.

 

 

My Most Memorable Day in Zimbabwe

Sunday morning I was extra eager to be up and about as the day’s activities including my visit to Antelope Park and my bush walk with lions. Truly a dream come true for me.

It was a relaxing morning spent outside in the front yard as the men of the Dingwa clan spent several hours cleaning their respective vehicles. Not unlike North American men, African men will also spend hours washing, buffing and shining their prized possessions – their vehicles, including cleaning and polishing their tires. Now this activity baffles me, especially here in dusty Sub-Sahara Africa for as soon as you leave the yard you are driving in dust and all visible signs of your efforts are obliterated. Oh well, men will be men.

I had a wonderful morning sitting the front yard watching the men work so hard physically, including Tim who was cleaning Granpa’s car and visiting with Mr. Dingwa. However, this visit started to take a turn for the worst when he found out what my intentions were for my visit to Antelope Park. He was utterly shocked that I would even contemplate trying to touch a lion, let alone snuggle it. While he heartily endorsed my visit to the beautiful Antelope Park, he did not want me to go any where near the lions.

Things escalated when a rather heated and tense discussion in Shona took place between Lawerence and his father which concluded with his father saying in English that Lawrence had informed him that it was absolutely useless to tell me what I could or couldn’t do when it comes to my lion adventure. Now I could understand Mr. Dingwa’s fear. All Africans have a very healthy fear and respect for the king of beasts who have roamed free in their areas and are known for their ability to kill.  As my host, Mr. Dingwa felt very responsible for my safety and well being. But like the rest of the Dingwa males he had to accept the fact that there was absolutely no dissuading me on my plans to get as up close and personal with a lion as I possibly could.

And as this was my only offence all weekend – Lawrence had not had to give me an electrical shock once as I was on my very best behavior – Mr. Dingwa finally accepted but did not condone my plans for adventure that afternoon. Quite frankly no one could ever talk me out of this dream, not even Buche for who I have the greatest respect. I was snuggling a lion even if it killed me 🙂