When we set out yesterday, we had only one mission in mind – to get to Fathala Wildlife Reserve in Senegal and try out the Lion Walk. The Lion Walk is exactly what the name implies. A 30/40-minute walk through the forest with a couple of lions in tow. At most Safaris with lions, you are given a long list of safety precautions and asked not to leave the vehicle at any point. At this one, we were only told to hold these sticks and not crouch in front of the lions. Up until yesterday, I had no idea that any Safaris even allowed you to get this close to a lion.
We drove 9 hours to and fro from Dakar and paid 25,000 XOF per person to take this badass photo, and I think it was worth it.
Everyone reacted differently to the lions. Especially when we realised that they were actually wild animals prone to jumping around when you least expect it and weren’t going to walk beside us meekly like well-trained dogs. They ran around restlessly and we found ourselves standing around a lot, waiting for them to come down from a tree, or darting out of their way when they suddenly came running behind us.
Even before the walk was over, Chris the male lion decided he was done with us mere mortals and ran off into the forest. He had been restless since we got there and was prevented from mounting another female lion.
First up to take pictures was Captain 5 minutes into our walk. He takes a few and Chris, the male lion suddenly charges off and starts running in circles after being stopped from mounting the female lion he was brought out with. When captain realised that the lions were prone to quick unsuspecting movement, he said ‘E mi ti lo, e mi ti lo’ (I’m going o, I’m going o.) We all thought he was kidding until he asked a guide to escort him out.
Everyone else kept a cautious distance at first. Inching closer when the lions stayed calm for more than a minute and jumping back whenever there was a sudden movement. I on the other hand who had found the 25,000 XOF fee a little steep didn’t let the lions out of my sight and took advantage of every photo opportunity. Even the guides alluded to my supposed bravery but the Delta girl in me was doing the math. At almost 15,000 naira per head, I was determined not to leave until I got the perfect picture. For me, it was this one of the female lion mid-yawn which was a lot less scary than it looked.
The sticks you see us holding are supposedly a sign of authority. When the lions see them they know not to harm you. I suspected we would have been fine without them but nobody dropped their sticks. There are six lions in total, all raised in captivity which seemed a little sad until the guide told us that lions raised in captivity live longer than those in the wild. They are fed every four days with dead animals which is why they weren’t tempted to snack on any of us. In the seven years, they’ve been in operation, the guide told us they had never had an incident. The lion walk is just a part of the reserve. There’s another part with giraffes and buffaloes and all those safari trappings we know and love but we didn’t sign up for that.
Pro Tip: It’s faster and easier for you to get to Fathala from Banjuk than Dakar. AT the safari you can pay in wither CFAs or Dalasis.
In Ghana, we discovered that ‘Ghana weaving’ is a style of braids referred to as that in other West African countries, except Ghana. Today we find out if the same goes for Senegalese twists.