Monday May 7- Learning the Ropes

This day marked the beginning of what would become our daily routine for the next 4 weeks.  As a volunteer, our first activity generally started at 6:25am African time.  African time generally means that nothing will ever start on time.  However, lion walks which left routinely at 6:25am and 4:00pm every day were usually close to on time because there would be guests that would accompany us.  Our first activity usually was a lion walk with either the P's (Paza and Penya) or the L's (Laili and Lewa).   This was followed by breakfast at 8am then our second activity at 9:30am.  Lunch was at noon, and third activity of the day was at 2pm, followed by the fourth and usually final activity at 4pm, which usually was another lion walk.  Sometimes, we would do another activity sometime in the evening such as a night encounter or lunar elephant ride that occurred after the sun went down.

This particular day, we were with Paza and Penya for our morning lion walk.  These lovely cubs were females, about 14 months old.  Paza was born at Antelope Park and Penya accompanied Laili from South Africa.  Paza and Penya were similarly sized, so we learned to tell them apart by their colors and attitudes.  Paza was darker and more affectionate while Penya was a bit of a snob but a beauty nonetheless. 

During this morning's walk, the cubs staked impala twice on their walk but were lazy in their attempts and gave themselves away before getting close, but who can really blame them... impala run FAST.

Following our walk, and our first witness to stalking lions, we got to go and visit the lions at the 'breeding program'.  The 'breeding program' is a few kilometers away from the main camp and houses ~90 lions.  The lions are in enclosures and are separated into all female or all male groups if they are not to be bred at the time, or into prides of a few females to a single male, and were also divided based on health issues.  For example, several of the lions at the program have FIV which is the feline equivalent of HIV and is passed through saliva and so these lions are separated from the healthy lions to prevent further spread of the disease.  In a particular enclosure housing some of the lions with FIV were Big Boy, Amy and Mel, who were 3 fully grown beautiful lions that liked to laze around in the sun.
Big Boy

We spent a couple of hours at the 'breeding program' being introduced to the various lions including fully grown males and females and the younger lions which were still in Stage 1 and going on night encounters.

Following our introduction to the 'breeding program' we were briefed on the various types of snakes that we would find while we were staying in camp.  Let's just say, I thought this was ridiculous.  They were telling me that I would come across some of the most poisonous snakes in Africa while I was staying at Antelope Park and I DID NOT want to believe this.  Snakes- fine.  Poisonous- not fine.  

On our evening lion walk, we went again with the P's, who were extremely lazy because of (1) the heat and (2) they were fed during the day.  As a result, the lions spent most of their time rolling around in the grass and playing in a dry riverbed because their bulging tummies were too big to allow for an aggressive stalk.

A lion from the Night Encounter section
Once we returned, we were walking back to our room only to be stopped dead in our tracks near the entrance to the volunteer accommodations by a snake (it was definitely a poisonous one too).  

Note to self #1- the staff were not kidding when they said there were snakes at camp.

After running past the snake and gathering our stuff for our first and highly anticipated shower, we were welcomed by cold water.

Note to self #2- time your shower accordingly because the last thing you want to do is have a cold shower after a long day, when it is dark and cold outside.  But it is all part of the African experience, so embrace it when it does happen!

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