Let’s see… I don’t even know where to start. I’ve been back from volunteering in Zimbabwe at the Lion Conservation in Victoria Falls project for a good few weeks, but the memories are still so fresh. All I can think of now is “I want to go back to Africa!”
They say, “follow your dreams.” Yes. Definitely. If you have one, don’t wait and just do it. Now is the time. If working with your favorite animals, helping orphaned kids, helping with research or studying wildlife, photography, or anything that you thought was almost impossible to do, volunteering is your answer! With GoEco, you get hundreds of programs to choose from, in your dream location!
I have always been fascinated with Africa and its wildlife, and always wanted to work hands on with lions. I also really wished to visit the beautiful Victoria Falls. So I found the program, that granted me all my wishes at once! When I finally arrived to Victoria Falls, I couldn’t believe I was really there. All these years! Here I am! I was introduced to all the great and friendly staff, and the other volunteers. Everyone was so welcoming! The house was nice and comfy, and the rooms very simple, yet clean. Nothing less of my expectations.
I went on my first lion walk that same afternoon! Now to explain, there are volunteer walks, where basically it’s just us volunteers and the lion handlers, and then there are client walks. Client walks are one hour walks, where any customers interested in this activity pay a fee, and under our and the lion handlers supervision, they get to walk with our lions. The money collected is used for lion conservation and rehabilitation. Under no circumstances are the lions treated as pets, we understand that they are wild animals and will be re-introduced into a semi-wild environment, where they have to hunt and care for themselves. That’s why there are of course certain protocols to be followed. Please don’t think that you will get to hug or kiss these lions, or let them jump on you. The pet-like behavior is not encouraged, as that would not work for a true rehabilitation project.
Now to our lions!!! I was thrilled to meet the four lions on the premises, 19 month old siblings (brother and sister), and 2 older, almost 2 years old female cousins. Pendo, the girl, which in Zimbabwean language Ndebele means “love”, and her brother Phezulu, which means “at the top”, where the lions we were walking and interacting with on daily basis. Fumani and Vithikazi, the females originally from South Africa, were too old to be walked, and just waiting to be transferred to stage 2 in Antelope Park, but we were still able to walk them a couple of times (without clients of course), and interact with them here and there.
The project staff was always so much fun to work with! Very happy, positive and funny.. every day I was excited to see them. They taught us a lot about lions, Africa, wildlife, and life in general. Their life, and my life. My whole perspective has changed. All of a sudden, you enjoy the little things, you’re happier, and complain less.
As far as the lions, my feelings have been right all my life. They are absolutely amazing, affectionate and loving creatures. My love for lions only grew after this experience. I have had the best time playing with and observing these wonderful beautiful creatures. They put a smile on my face every day!
Besides the lions project, we got to check out the other projects as well. We went to the local orphanage, which I absolutely enjoyed and was so glad to experience. The kids were amazing, and so happy with so little to have. I definitely walked out of there a changed person, and currently looking into some sponsorships. We went on the hyena research project, game counts and game drives, where you get to see all the wildlife roaming around, including elephants, zebras, giraffes, impalas, warthogs, wildebeasts, just to name a few.
In the spare time, I was able to book all the activities I planned to see, so it’s safe to say, that I have seen everything I wished to see! From the majestic Victoria Falls, a walk alongside in the beautiful national park, the helicopter flight over the Victoria Falls, the Devils Pool in Zambia, which was probably the craziest but also the coolest thing to ever experience, the trip to Botswana, Chobe National park, where I saw thousands of elephants, buffalos, hippos, and all the other wildlife.. the place I would compare to a true fairy land in my opinion.
Overall feeling about the Lion Conservation in Victoria Falls project? The best trip of my life! I have always been interested in nature and wildlife conservation and it’s been my passion for a long time. I am currently looking into possible opportunities in this field, as I would love to return to Africa, where I left my heart.