Zambia (2): Day Twelve : Zambezi Sun Hotel
This, for me, was going to be the highlight of our trip: 'Walking With Lions'. As a dedicated pussy-lover, you can imagine my excitement at being able to walk freely with mature lions in the African bush! Although these were lions reared from being orphaned young, they nevertheless didn't live in captivity, but rather in a corner of the Mosi-oa-Tunya Park, that they were free to leave if they so desired. However they obviously enjoyed their daily job, which was to go for an escorted walk with a number of slightly apprehensive tourists.
On arrival at our staging point we saw that there were two separate activities taking place from here. In addition to the lion walk, there was a separate elephant ride, that over a dozen people had signed up for. They were initially seated in a semicircle of chairs in order to be briefed, with the elephants lined up waiting to be boarded in a comparatively narrow area in between these seats and the base building ().
One of these was only a baby, not intended to be ridden on by guests, but actually being ridden by a young girl guide (). She was clearly very inexperienced, and repeatedly goaded it with the sharply pointed stick that is used to control them. Suddenly it panicked, and charged into its companions. They in turn stampeded, with nowhere to go but into the circle of chairs alongside them. The guests leaped to their feet, but it was a miracle that nobody was severely injured, or killed, since at least eight of the (thankfully now empty) chairs were smashed flat ().
Although the organisers of this activity (as opposed to its local managers) responded quite well to our follow-up comments regarding the potential seriousness of this incident, we are still somewhat hesitant about recommending this as an activity to take, at least on the Zambian side: it was in stark contrast to the experience we had later in Zimbabwe.
However this was not really our problem, and we soon departed on our own expedition. After a short walk we met up with the lions - two 20-month old females - and walked with them for a while watching them do their own thing in the open bush that was their home () () () (), below. What a thrill to be able to sit with, and touch () (), plus walk casually with (), these wonderful creatures.
The afternoon activity, although quite significant in its own right, had to be somewhat of an anticlimax after this. It involved about an hour’s walk through the bush, to reach a white rhino sanctuary, where we were able to get quite up close, on foot, to what was actually quite a docile herd, made up of both adults and young (). Obviously we weren't allowed to get up close and touch them, as with the lions, but it was fascinating to be able to watch them from only a few yards' distance.
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