Journey Around The World – Walking with Lions, Zimbabwe

Sketching, Travel Sketching, Trip Around the World 2013, watercolour painting

Walking with Lions, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe                        August 16th, 2013

We had the opportunity to spend some time with two 18 month old lion sister cubs just outside of Victoria Falls.  Lion Encounter is a not for profit organization working to reintroduce lions back into the National Parks of Africa where the lion has become extinct.  There main goal is to increase the overall population of wild lions in Africa.

In the 1940’s according to National Geographic the estimated population of lions was approximately 450,000.  Today it is estimated that there are fewer than 20,000 animals in the wild.

We were somewhat cautious of being part of a lion program that could potentially sell the lions to a private game reserve that caters to hunters.  We were assured that this was not the case by the information and video that we watched that this was about reintroducing lions into the wild through a 4 stage program.  We were seeing the lions in stage one. In stages 2 and 3 they are part of a pride with no human contact. In stage 4 the off spring from the pride in stage 3 are released into the wild when they are old enough.

With that being said our experience with these lions was amazing.  We spent about an hour and a half walking and hanging out with them.  It is one thing to see a show on television about lions and it is another to see them up close.  Later on in our trip we saw wild lions in Etosha Pan from the safety of our truck.  Taking pictures while on the ground with lions allows you to get a lower perspective than if you are in a vehicle.

The pictures that Lyn and I took with our cameras were used later on for the watercolor painting at the top of this post.  Often when I am preparing to do a more formal watercolor such as this one I will do a series of sketches to become more familiar with the details.  One of the things that amazed me about lions was how there coloring blended perfectly into the surrounding bush.  With this in mind I used a limited selection of colors to suggest this in the picture.

As amazing as this experience was I realize that this is somewhat controversial. Our next encounter with African animals would be on the Chobe River in Chobe National Park in North West Botswana.

 

Journey Around The World – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, South Africa

Travel Sketching, Trip Around the World 2013, watercolour painting

An Afternoon at Victoria Falls                                 August 15th, 2013

After our flight from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg, South Africa we took a relatively short flight to Victoria Falls (only 1200 kilometers).  The next day we spent some time orienting ourselves to our new reality.  We were staying in a camp ground for a couple of days before heading out on a truck with Oasis Overland Tours.  Our trip would take us over land through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and south to Cape Town, South Africa.

Painting streams, rivers and waterfalls are some of my favorite subjects and so a day exploring at Victoria Falls was an inspiring way to kick off a month in Southern  Africa. In the western section of the park is a monument to Dr. David Livingstone a Scottish pioneer, and missionary explorer.  The monument credits him to “discovering” Victoria Falls which is maybe a British Colonialist perspective when you consider that the locals who had probably lived there for hundreds of years called the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya.  So maybe he was the first European to see the falls.

We saw our first monkey’s in the park called Vervet monkey’s and as you would expect they do very well for themselves feeding on handouts from all the tourists.  We saw this in the Amazon Rain Forest in Ecuador and with the Baboon’s at Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.  All along our trip I erred on the cautious side by keeping a safe distance from our monkey friends.

As a former white water raft guide I was very aware that just below Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River is one of the greatest rafting day trips on the planet. If you are an adrenaline junkie this is the trip for you.  Sadly I only had one day to do this and we decided that since I have done hundreds of rafting trips that we would go walking with lions as this would be a more unique experience. This will be my next blog story and was one of the great highlights of our trip to Southern Africa.