Written by: Alexander Mani Karson, Antelope Park Volunteer
“Going to Zimbabwe had been on my mind every now and again for several years. But the decision to actually make it happen was quite impulsive.
However, I can honestly say that I will never regret this impulsive decision. Antelope Park will be my greatest memory. It is important to do what you want, before it is too late.
I have been here for just under three weeks now, but I feel like I have just arrived, some of the volunteers that came at the same time as I did only stayed for two weeks. That is not enough time; I barely feel four weeks is enough. The people here make it feel like home, they are all very friendly and open. Wherever you go you’ll find a smiling face ready to help with whatever you need. The project that I decided to come for is the Lion rehabilitation project. Their purpose and goals are to reintroduce and increase the number of lions in the wild.
Working with lions
Our days start at around six thirty in the morning in the best way possible – taking young lion cubs on a bushwalk in Africa. You get to know the cubs during these walks and get to spend plenty of time with them, which is kind of the coolest thing in the world.
Not many people can say they’ve spent time with lion cubs, trying to get them used to their natural habitat. You will also get to know them when you do behavior enrichment, that’s when you make toys out of natural materials such as grass, twigs, branches and elephant poop. You get to stay with the cubs while they tear it apart in a matter of seconds. Other lion-related activities are the meat preparation, which is hardcore, interesting and disgusting at the same time. You’ll get to be a butcher for a day, the feeding…that will be one of the most exciting things you will ever see. When the fully grown male lions come running toward you to feast on the delicacies you have brought them. Would you have the courage to stand by the fence and not move?
Today we had some real fun. We took three, 2-year-old lionesses out of their enclosures and drove in the bush for nearly three hours with them tagging along, enjoying the view and stalking the game around. I never thought I would witness, with my own eyes, a fully grown lioness stalking prey in Africa…I am a big fan of animal documentaries, especially the ones that take place in Africa, but man oh man, nothing compares to see it with your own eyes. They stalked the giraffes, the wildebeest, the impalas and some storks.
On my eleventh day here I went on an overnight horse safari with the volunteers from the stables, as well as some other projects. That trip was one of the highlights of my stay here in Zimbabwe. After lunch we met in the stables and prepared our horses for the trip. We’d start off by taking a bushride in the park, where you get to see all the animals up close. You can get a lot closer to them on a horse then in a loud truck, that I can tell you. To sit on a horse in the African wilderness right next to five giraffes is indescribable. I won’t try to describe it to you, if you want to know how it feels, get off your ass and come out here. You’ll not regret it. After the bush ride we went back to the stables and changed our clothes for our next activity, the horse swim. This time we rode for about thirty minutes, outside the park. When we arrived at our destination we took the saddles off of the horses and rode them into the lake and swam with them. Another amazing experience!
Immersing myself in the community
Last Tuesday I got the opportunity to visit the Drop-in-centre, or The Midlands Children Hope Centre, where orphaned children are welcome to come and study, play games and have some food. You see it on the news and on the internet about all these terrible things around the world, wars, famine and homeless people, you think: “oh, that’s sad…” and carry on eating your dinner. Actually being there and seeing the orphaned children had a big impact on me, I felt bad, I felt very privileged. I almost felt ashamed of myself. The things we complain about at home…we don’t have problems compared to these children.
To visit Africa has been the greatest decision I have made so far. Not only does Antelope Park accommodate to your thirst for adventures but whilst scratching off your bucket list you will be giving back to the community. This is an opportunity for yourself and an opportunity to see this place grow in the years to come. Come and be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself. Now is the time to make a difference!”
To follow in Alex’s footsteps contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or enquire through our website inquiry form.