Paza + Penya

Paza + Penya

Paza + Penya

5:15am, my watch keeps telling me. I throw back the covers and tiptoe out onto the cold deck of our river tent at Antelope Park. It’s been a year since I was last able to peek out and see the light come up over the river here. Still as beautiful as ever. Kim and I are slated for an early morning walk with Paza and Penya, and we’re both anxious and excited to see how these two lovely ladies have grown in our absence. Will we recognize them? Will they remember us? It’s also an opportunity to break out some of the video gear I’ve brought along and take it out for a proper field test. We walk out to meet the Ps at their old enclosure on the other side of the river, and as their gate is opened they both come springing out into the field and start playing with each other; excited to be in the cool morning air and going out for a proper romp. Any fears of not recognizing them are quickly dispelled. Both their outward appearances and individual quirks are just as recognizable and on comic display as they were a year ago. So good to see you again, ladies!

As our walk continues we’re joined by some clients. A pair of older Asian women; most likely Chinese, given that country’s ties to Zim. It’s then that the awkwardness of our situation starts to surface. Before the walk, a client liaison from the front office wanted us to go through lion safety training with the clients, which we did. But it’s something we’ve already been through both previously here and in Livingstone, and we’re not exactly clients, per se, even though the front office is treating us as such. We’re also not exactly volunteers, even though that’s how the handlers are treating us. Like the cross-border bridge between Livingstone and Victoria Falls, we feel like we’re in a bit of a no man’s land here and it seems no one quite knows how best to handle us; or, to be frankly honest, even cares. I just hope the bungee doesn’t break and we end up in croc-infested waters.

That said, I still pinch myself. The golden light of the morning African sun is sweeping sideways across the fields surrounding us, I’m with my sweetheart, and we’re walking alongside two lionesses that we love dearly. During the walk Penya and Paza spy some impala in the distance and leisurely stalk them, but the antelope do a good job of keeping several hundred meters between themselves and the Ps. I do a bit of filming and also try to take some still photos, but I always seem to be in someone’s way, whether or not I actually am, so I’m not feeling particularly confident behind the lens this morning. At the end of the walk it’s a delight to sign off with the obligatory “Thanks for the walk, ladies!” What I didn’t know at the time, which I desperately wish I had, was that it would be our only walk with the Ps during our AP visit. In fact, it would be our only lion walk at all while we were at Antelope Park.

(Click on a pic to embiggen. You can also view these photos on our Flickr Photostream.)
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