So here it has arrived — the last week of my internship, and it’s bittersweet to say the least. It has been an amazing experience, full of highs and some lows, much fun and laughter, as well as much introspection and even some sorrow. Such is the case with any complex and richly textured life experience — it’s the combination of these things that make it authentic. I’ve been inspired by all of the humanitarian and environmental work that I’ve seen during my time in Africa, by this organization and others, and at the same time found myself wishing that things could be even better. The whole “TIA” or “This is Africa” phenomenon is very real — things work differently here. It’s not necessarily better or worse, but for anyone from an industrialized place, it can sometimes seem like you’ve stepped back in time. If you’re really paying attention, however, you’ll see an ingenuity in the approach to things, with people using the tools, materials, and resources that are available, often until they are quite literally falling apart. It makes you appreciate everything so much more, including what you learn from the people here.
I leave Victoria Falls on Friday to fly to Nairobi for a two week safari in Kenya and Tanzania, including the island of Zanzibar, with stops in the Masai Mara, Lake Victoria, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire, Stone Town, and the northwestern coast of Zanzibar. I have a full day in Nairobi and plan to visit the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Manor, as well as the Karen Blixen Museum, a place I’ve wanted to visit as long as I could remember. Out of Africa is one of my all-time favorite films, for many reasons, and I have such admiration for her story.
My journey here in Zimbabwe and Zambia is coming to an end, and soon I will say goodbye to the cubs and the people, and the beauty of this place, leaving a part of my heart here. I know that everything I’ve done during my time here has been with a focus of what’s in the best interest of those cubs, and all the lions here, which sometimes can be in seeming conflict with the business and tourist side of the coin. It’s the classic case of people caring about what is real to them in their world, so one way to get people to care about wildlife, globally, is to make it real to them through documentaries, publications, and in-person experiences. In the case of wildlife, that can mean safari style game drives or hands-on interactions. The key is striking the balance between raising funds for conservation through these types of interactions without it turning into a quasi petting zoo and photo frenzy. And there have been days when I’ve really struggled with this dichotomy here — which exists all over Africa, and all over the world, for that matter. Elephants that paint for tourists. Zoos. Keeping exotic animals as pets. Etc. Etc. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but it was good to be part of something for a while that is trying to err on the side of doing the right thing in an environment that challenges that on a regular basis, as all of these types of companies have to make money to survive, so that’s where tourism comes in, and it doesn’t always take the form of responsible eco-tourism. But I remain hopeful. I want to believe that it’s not too late for these amazing creatures. And I will continue to advocate for saving the African lion.
I’m opting to not post any further photos of the cubs at this point. They are subjected to cameras every day, and I have plenty of real and mental photos of them. My love affair with these lions started with Phezulu and Pendo, continued on with Africa, Alika, Arusha, Amani and all the L, T, and R cubs, as well as others such as Nala, Savuti, Paza, Nkoya, Sekulu, Kenya, and many others. If I had to pick one, it’s impossible, so my time here is dedicated to three that captured my heart for difference reasons: Phezulu, Lila, and Ruva. Phezulu for his beauty and gentle nature, Lila for her confidence and affection, and Ruva for her incredible perseverance.
On the human side, there are just too many people to thank them all, and I’d risk unintentionally leaving someone out, so I’ll trust that they know who they are and they all have my great appreciation. Thank you to my AI and ALERT friends for everything — and keep doing great work. I’ll always remember my time here, and all of you for making it extra special.
Adding some photos from the last few weeks.
Some final highlights from my month in Livingstone, Zambia:
And the last ones from Victoria Falls: