Thursday February 5th ~ Antelope Park to Masvingo
After only 2.5 short hours the alarm was going off on Tim’s iPhone.
I struggled to get my bearings. That is often one of the challenges of frequent traveling – trying to figure out where you are each morning when you wake up. When sleep deprived it makes finding your way to the bathroom even more interesting…
But the day had dawned and we had a couple of items to check off our list before leaving Antelope Park. At breakfast we soon found out that our missing lion adventure of the previous night was THE topic of conversation. Gerald, our Antelope Park guide, who accompanied us while searching the savannah had already been filling in other members of our group.
Evidently it had taken until 5:30 to finally get the wayward girls back into their fenced-in compound. The entire staff had been up all night and were struggling to face the day with no sleep. All of a sudden my 2.5 hours seems a little better.
In case you did not read about our adventure of trying to find two missing lionesses, you can check it out here.
First up this morning was “Lion Cub Viewing”
We had been hoping to see the wee little ones, and possibly even get to bottle feed one, but that was not to be. At the time we were there the four youngsters were outgrowing the cuddly stage. They were now getting close to six months old and would soon transition into the “Walk with the Lions” part of the program.
With only 30 minutes inside the outdoor cage, we had hoped for more. Still, it was enjoyable, if not the experience we had envisioned. The youngsters were a combination of rambunctious, playful and curious.
Gerald accompanied us and once again introduced us to the cubs. This time none of us needed to carry a stick, but he kept one in his hand at all times and gently reprimanded the cubs if they became too aggressive.
The cubs were never struck, or injured in any way. The stick was simply used to stop them, or remind them that there were limits imposed on them when interacting with humans.
There are currently none of the lionesses pregnant or expecting, so I’m not sure when the babies will next be available to interact with.
Only one more activity was left on our agenda – “Feeding the big cats“.
Our group gathered at the appointed time and we loaded once again into the back of pickups to be taken to the fenced-in compound where the big boys were housed.
The stage had been set before we arrived.
Inside a large fenced area the carcass of a cow had been placed only a couple of feet from the fence line. Five enormous, fully maned male lions were in a smaller cage directly behind this larger enclosure.
They were pacing back and forth, back and forth. The roars were deafening. Staring at us and the much sought after food, we were in their sites. I’m not sure what looked more delicious to them, but thankfully they were not given that choice!
We notice that the meat is swarming with flies.
We each took up a spot along the chain link fence line, got our cameras focused on the meat and upon Gerald’s signal the big boys were turned loose. Can you imagine the thrill it was seeing five full-grown hungry lions charging right at you????
I was wanting to check the strength of that fence about then, but figured it was a little late for that thought to cross my mind…
Here is a very short video I shot. This is my first time at adding a clip to my blog. The quality is not great, and you can hear me whispering to Tim at the start, trying to figure out if it is recording. Oh what a rookie I am, but this is how I learn.
What we found out was that the fastest male is not the dominate one. In fact the first one to the food, simply grabbed a big chunk and quickly took off with it about 30 feet away before starting to eat.
A couple of other males did the same thing and then the dominate leader of the pride simply laid down amidst the “lions share” that remained and took his own sweet time eating his fill.
This time seeing the lions eat somehow did not disturb me. I think I have been conditioned by seeing steaks, roasts and huge slabs of beef at the grocery store or meat markets to not be thinking that this was a dead animal.
Perhaps I need to check my sensitivity meter, as this cow obviously had given its life simply for the benefit of feeding hungry lions and for the thrill of seeing them charge in our direction.
I’m feeling confused and at odds with myself as I write this…
Sadly our time at Antelope Park had come to an end. We said our farewells to Gerald, and reminisced about the strange and adventurous evening we had the previous night trying to find the missing lions with him.
Loading up into our bus for a several hour drive to Masvingo, our next stop on this amazing journey through Zimbabwe.
We arrived late afternoon and checked in to Hippo Creek Lodge on the shore of Lake Mutirikwi. Some of our gang opted for a hike up the hill that culminated down at the lake. Tim and I decided to stay at the lodge and try to get a little Internet time in.
Our dinner at the lodge was uneventful and we chose an early bedtime. After only a couple of hours sleep the night before, we were looking forward to playing catch up with our pillows.
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for conservation efforts in place to try to preserve these magnificent creatures. I am also struggling at odds with myself in trying to come to terms with why one life (the lion) is more sacred than the other (a cow or wildebeest). The circle of life in the wild is usually based on a hierarchy, as in survival of the fittest. This does not seem to be the case when mankind gets involved. I still have much to learn, but ever thankful that I am having this opportunity to try to find my own balance on the scales of right, wrong and justice for all God’s creatures.
We invite you to subscribe to our blog, share us on Facebook, Goggle or Twitter, like us on Facebook (A note from abroad), and leave us a comment. Your feedback is important and valued!