The thought of walking with lions excites me! Hence, I’ve decided to sign up for this when I was in Zimbabwe in 2011.
Lion Encounter (http://www.lionencounter.com/) has been actively protecting the lions from extinction in Africa.
On the morning of 21 December 2011, I met Chobe and Chesa, two 18-month old cubs at Masuwe Estate (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe). Though they were just cubs, they were giant cats already!
Lion cubs are just like kittens, since they belong to the cat family. They are equally curious and playful, but they don’t perform stunts like ‘roll over’ or ‘chasing after lights’ like what pet cats usually do.
Chesa, the male lion cub, hasn’t had his mane yet. This could be the reason why he looked almost the same size as Chobe. The mane is supposed to be its ‘crowning glory’, hence, making male lions look bigger and better-looking. Our guide told us that male lions would have full-grown mane by 4 years old, and that is when their appearance would be enhanced and they can go around attracting the female lions.
While I was walking with the lions, I also realised that they liked to be pat hard on their backs. In turn, they will wag their tails from side to side to express their approvals. The most disappointing thing I found out about the lions is that their fur is not as soft as I had imagined it to be. It turned out to be as hard as the brush!
The walk lasted for about an hour, as Chesa was quite lazy and kept yawning along the way. I guess that’s a good sign because cats are usually nocturnal animals, hence, they would be too lazy to think about chasing after humans as food.
At the end of the walk, they served us a simple breakfast and showed us a video of our walk with the pride. The staff at Lion Encounter also shared with us the various volunteer programmes and how to help support their initiatives to keep the lions alive.
We bought the DVD at US$30 and also donated some tips for ALERT to research about lions, as well as to prevent them from extinction.
I would really love to go back another time to volunteer to take care of the cubs and see that they are equipped with the survival skills to be released into the open when they turn into adults. That would be a great achievement!