Antelope Park

17 Mar

Well, I didn’t expect all this. Peter and I were shown to our 5-star luxury chalet (raised bath inside the room, elephants swimming in the lake just over there) and given an itinerary for our 2 night stay. Elephant ride safari in the morning. Watch the captive lions get fed before lunch. Walk with lions in the early evening. Visit the stage 2 release site the next morning. Free breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet. Free everything apart from beer. And then we were given some beer. This was the Holy Grail of freebies. We were more than happy to give a presentation on our bike rides at some point. Of course we flippin were.

Antelope Park is a manicured, luxury affair with horse-drawn carriage rides around the lawn and through the park where giraffe, elephant, zebra, waterbuck, imapala and other herbivores mooch about. There are boats on the river, and 40 or so Scandinavian girls working as volunteers*. And we had turned up on Saturday evening, party night.

The most impressive activity was seeing the lions get fed. 4 males charging 25 meters towards a mound of offal just centimeters from the fence you’re leaning against, and roaring and fighting over it for a few seconds before tearing into it, or running off with a chunk (as does the male at the bottom of the pack, if he can get a piece at all before the big cheeses get their first fill). It was hard not to flinch when they wildly pounced onto the meat less than a meter away.

Before this, one of the female lions projectile pissed on me. The guide, a cool character called Limbani, could see it coming. I wasn’t paying attention to that particular lion when in his smooth, slow timbre he said “Now what about this, Guy… you see there, she’s lifting her tail so…” Then I got pissed all over. He could have pulled me away if he wanted, I reckon. Funny for the others and the crowd of volunteers on the jeep watching though.

After 4 nights, or 10 buffets, it was time to leave Antelope Park. I stayed longer than planned because some of the staff and I were planning on travelling together. On the 2nd night I had a few beers with a wild-kid Zimbabwean aplha-male character called Jonathan, who came up with the idea to ride alongside me on horses with a couple of friends towards my next destination – Great Zimbabwe ruins – and film the journey for a promotional video.

Before we left we had the unfortunate news that Jason, a bull-sized South African cameraman who’s at Antelope Park doing a shoot for Animal Planet, couldn’t make it – 8 zebra were being delivered to the release site on the day after we planned to leave, which meant around 5 zebra were going to be taken down that night and he had to capture the kill on camera.

* Antelope Park, as it turns out, is as much a creche for the volunteers as it is for the lion cubs.


3 Responses to “Antelope Park”

  1. Tracey Mum Morris March 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Wow Jack, are you trying to give your mother a heart attack!!! That must have been an amazing experience being so close with the lions – not one I would like to endure but I’m very glad you are still here to tell the tale……

  2. ANGIE BRYANT March 18, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Unbelievable Jack!! I’m so envious of the whole trip but this part in particular. To be that close to the animals is awesome. Keep going. Angie x

  3. craig March 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Ahhh, Lewa and Laili… so great to see recent photos of those two lovely lions! Your bike trip sounds absolutely fantastic; thanks for sharing the adventure!

    CH Young

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