During my travels in Zimbabwe, I was lucky enough to visit Antelope Park’s sister project in Victoria Falls.
The site here is nowhere near as big as Antelope Park. I think the main bonus of working here, is the proximity to Victoria Falls (stating the obvious I know). For anyone after thrill-seeking or adventure sports mixed in with conservation work, this is probably the best project for you.
There are not as many lions here; when we visited, there were only two groups, but we were still able to take a pair out for a walk. They were older than the ones we were used to… Batoka and Bhubasi were in their final stages of walking and would soon be to old to be mixing with humans.
With the 2B’s being older and as the area we were walking them was a national park, we were escorted by armed handlers – just in case. Made me feel a little bit uneasy, but of course, it wasn’t about to put me off.
We had to be a lot more aware of what the lions were doing and where they went, as they were much more boisterous than the ones at Antelope Park. It just so happened, on this particular walk, lady lion decided to be exceptionally naughty and managed to find and catch a puff adder snake.
Marvellous. Bloody spiffing marvellous.
I am petrified of snakes. I hate them. And here was a pretty big lion charging around with one in its mouth, whilst the snake repeatedly bit her. The pain of the snake bites must have eventually got to Bhubasi as she eventually flung it out, luckily not towards us (but it landed pretty close!).
Something I learnt during this experience was Zimbabwe has an extremely limited supply of anti-venom (or in some cases none at all). The lion had been badly affected by the bites and had actually passed out. We were lucky to be near the country’s border, so the handlers/coordinators were able to send for anti-venom to be brought over straight away from neighbouring Zambia.
The staff at the project stayed exceptionally calm and knew exactly what to do, which was so reassuring, as the rest of us were pretty much crapping it throughout the whole ordeal (or at least I was).
Bhubasi recovered perfectly fine from her trauma and has hopefully learnt a valuable lesson in the process.
It was nice to visit another lion project, for the experience more than anything, meeting new lions and new people. It was nice to see the quality of volunteer work was just as good here and really reinforced my faith in the work African Impact do, and makes me feel that if I were to book on another project elsewhere, I wouldn’t be disappointed.
I also learnt a valuable lesson, big cats (other than their size) are no different to domestic ones… always curious!