Today was one of the most fun, yet terrifying days of my life. Andrew and I decided to visit a game reserve just outside of Livingstone and experience a real bush walk with lions. The lions were only 13 months old, but they were already as large as full grown lions… and they were extremely playful.
We scheduled our lion walk a few days before, but then realized that we had scheduled it from the Zimbabwe side rather than the Zambia side. Luckily we have become regular faces (thanks to the good wifi) at the best hostel in town called Jolly Boys, and they were able to hook us up with same day vouchers to bush walk with the lions.
We set off around 9:00am for the reserve where we were taken through a comprehensive lecture on what you should and should not do in front of the lions. Andrew and I then proceeded to enter the bush with four guides and one volunteer. We encountered the lions after only about 5 minutes of walking.
The feeling of being with the king of the jungle without a fence was quite something. In total we had about an hour and a half with lions out in the bus in which we were able to walk with them and yes…touch them. At one point in the walk the guide motioned for me to come over and stand between a tree and the lion so that he could take a photo of me. The lion did not like this idea and started swatting at me with his not so soft paw. This swatting, the growl, and the eyes staring directly into mine was enough to send chills up and down my spine. As the lion started coming closer I was so scared I couldn’t even move. The guides who were controlling the situation told me not to show fear because the lions can sense it… But I was beyond the point of return. This was one of the scariest moments of my life! I am just grateful for the guide who ran in front of the lion to get his attention so that I could move as far away from the tree as possible.
The rest of the walk was very enjoyable, with only a few moments of terror, but by the time we were finished I was glad I could finally breath again… Lion walking is AMAZING but very stressful.
We arrived back at Jolly Boys around midday and spent the rest of our time planning our trip into Botswana tomorrow, sending Andrew for snacks every once in a while. Before we headed back to Thwaambo and Betty’s home we had several hours to walk around the town and see many new sights. We went to the local market to pick up some supplies for our delta trip in Botswana, including a pot for cooking nshima and veggies, one plate to eat on, one bowl for morning porridge, and one cooking stick to stir our food as we cook it over the fire.
We have found that in Africa people live off very little, including ourselves. We don’t need utensils, fancy cookware, an electric stove, or a fridge to be able to cook and enjoy delicious food. It is actually quite liberating.
We arrived back at the girl’s place right before dark around 6:00pm and found Thwaambo ready to teach us our next cooking lesson. Today’s menu was nshima, kapenta (little dried fish), lepu (cooked rape), and an eggplant vegetable dish. Just like yesterday, they pulled out their little cooking brier and bag of charcoal and we a sat outside cooking our dinner. I can officially say that today was the first time I cooked nshima all the way from start to finish.
For all of you who are wondering if you will get to taste any of these foods, I have good news… I have documented every recipe from all the local foods we have either cooked or eaten here in Africa. Feel free to reach out about doing dinner together when we are in your area! We have also talked about doing an African thanksgiving this year…
We are so sad to be leaving Thwaambo and Betty tomorrow morning, but it is time for our journey to continue on to Botswana. We hope to see them again soon, maybe on our way back through Zambia.
(Below: Andrew’s post)
We had an incredible morning. Kylie and I woke early, unsure what our plans would be for the day. Originally we were going to see the lions, but Kylie was hesitant this morning since it could be like Thailand (where they’re drugged and just flop around in a lethargic state), and an experience like that wasn’t really worth paying for. So, we were without a specific agenda for the day. A little worrying since when you backpack, you should always have a plan so you don’t waste time. After coming together and praying, I felt we should keep our original plan of walking with lions.
I’m very glad we did.
We caught a lift there from JollyBoys and were joined by a lady from Melbourne. I had a lot of fun chatting with her about Australia and it made me think of my mission experiences.
When we arrived we signed a waiver (African waivers have only a couple sentences outlining the legal protection they’ll have… Not much), paid, and were given a debriefing what was acceptable and what we should avoid.
Then we were off into the bush.
We walked for about 15 minutes till we saw the trackers and two lions about 13 months old. Despite being so young, the lions were quite large, the size of a Great Dane. They were sitting in the shade avoiding the heat of the sun above.
In Africa, many animals are habituated to humans, meaning they become accustomed to humans and don’t run as often is the instinct of wild animals.
Despite being habituated, the lions were still wild and showed us this by how they behaved. The male was quite energetic and a couple times was curious about Kylie and her hair (which is a golden color… Kind of like a lions mane), which resulted in a couple close encounters for Kylie!
As we walked with the lions, played with them, and patted them, I couldn’t help but think how incredible the experience was. Even with the guides, being out in the bush with lions was an incredible animal encounter.
Kylie might have other thoughts on our encounter since the male made a couple goes at her (the guides intervened by distracting the male). But even she left big smiles and laughing.
After walking with lions, we made our way back into town where we restocked, refueled, and prepared for our journey. We had a final cooking night with Thwaambo and Bettsy where we made Nsima, rape, eggplant, and kapenta (small fried fish). My stomach growled at me just thinking about it!
Our time in Livingstone has been incredible. We met two incredible girls who opened their home and hearts to us, saw Victoria Falls (where my grandma has always wanted to go), and walked with wild lions in the bush. Hard to beat the experiences you have in Africa, everything makes for a life changing experience… Or at least a good story!