Greetings from near Gweru, Zimbabwe..
For the last few days we have been heading south through Zimbabwe. Our first stop was at a game lodge ($590 a night but it also provided camping ground to overland trucks and their motley crews). Here we were taken for game drives into the Hwange national park. Amongst the now common place zebra, elephant, giraffe and antelope of various kinds, we were lucky enough to see a pack of endangered Cape hunting dogs. The lodge also had its own hide and floodlit waterhole, so evenings were spent sipping a drink and watching for impala, giraffe and elephant.
We then moved on to Gweru antelope park where we are camped in an idyllic situation on the shores of a lake. Around us are elephants and, as the park is now home to a lion project, we hear lions roaring early every morning.
The project breeds and then slowly, over 4 years, allows them to gain the skills needed in the wild before they are released as established prides, all over Africa. We were able to walk with three lions but before we went we had to be trained. No running; no crouching; only
approach lions from behind; only use the stick to point and say no; don't touch the ears or head of lions; stay together as a pack of visitors, don't get isolated … and DON'T PANIC.
The lions were all about 18 months old, and are in stage two of the program and in a 3,000 acre enclosure. It was strange to walk with such strong and scarey cats, everyone was a little nervous. But it also felt like a great privilege, to share for a while their world. They acted like lions half the time and like kids the other half of the time. The two females were very approachable and were fairly happy to be stroked, the male was not so impressed with us and was more interested in the world around him. He would soon be ready for stage three, when they will start to hunt.
We were then allowed to play with a three month old lion cub. She was like a giant kitten, playing with soft toys but with long claws and a reasonable set of teeth! We had a lot of fun playing “hunt the toy panda” with her and would have happily
taken her home with us.
Tomorrow continue our gentle meander south, heading for the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. More news from somewhere further south.
Love, Gill and Alistair
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