“Mum, I’m going on a horseback safari.”
I wish I could tell you the response when I sat her down to tell her this, but for the sake of the expletives coming out of her mouth, I will try and paraphrase.
“You will be kidnapped at the airport and we will never see you again!”
“You will be lion food!”
“What if the horses are dangerous?”
And so on.
Well Mum, here I am – still with all limbs intact I might add.
You can’t help those motherly concerns popping into your head as you first step foot on Zimbabwe soil. What if I do get stranded? How safe is it? What if I can’t ride the horses here? And then you do step foot, you walk out into the African sun and Zimbabwe wraps its arms around you and knocks you off your feet in the most surprising and uplifting way you could ever imagine.
Unfortunately, as soon as I walked out of the airport, I was kidnapped.
I was taken by the kind driver of my waiting shuttle, where my fellow arrivals were already seated and ready to go. I was taken in comfort and security right up to the front door of my new home for the next month, where I was welcomed warmly with a shower and a hot meal. I should have listened to you, Mum.
It wasn’t long before I heard the lions roar echo across the park. Where are they? Am I safe? But then I got to see the conservation program. I learned how it connected to the local community and our role in promoting sustainable lion populations in Africa. I am scared of the lions Mum. I am scared that one day there may not be any left.
Finally, I met the dangerous horses of Zimbabwe. The wild horses, who gently nuzzled my hair as I walked through the stables and stretched out their neck for a scratch behind the ears. The horses who safely rode us past impala and zebra, never putting a foot wrong. Their ears were pricked and they nibbled the long grass as they strolled before taking us for a swim in the local watering hole to cool off.
After a few days, I got to see how the horses of Antelope Park are cared for. Even in the middle of the African bush, I saw horses with shiny summer coats, enjoying their days in grassy fields. I rode horses who were fit and healthy, who were professionally looked after and well-loved. I don’t know how I’ll ever cope, Mum.
As I swing into the saddle, ready to have another adventure, I realised that maybe everything I had been led to believe about Zimbabwe is not what Zimbabwe is at all.
You were right Mum, it’s just too dangerous to go on a horseback safari.