The highlight of her 17-day trip for Merle Nazareth was the opportunity to closely encounter and pet 18-month-old Lions as they “walked with the lions.” Marti Davis also got to touch one of the big cats during the tour.


Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Well, actually, the lions were already tame.

Three Banning residents — Marti Davis, Irena Daly and Merle Nazareth — recently took the trip of a lifetime and traveled to South Africa, where the got up close and person with some young lions.

The 17-day trip took them to Cape Town, Kruger National Park, Hluhluwe Game Reserve in Zululand, Swaziland, Chobe National Park in Botswanna, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and to Johannesburg.

The highlight of the journey, they said, was the “encounter and walk with the lions” at Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe.

The three women walked with 18-month-old lions in their natural habitat, sometimes touching them, and watching them play. At times, the lions, the women said, which allowed them to get close and take photos.

“There are no leashes, no collars, just a natural African wildlife adventure,” the women said.

Their guide on the excursion explained that in a move to increase the lion population, which has fallen by 80 percent in the world due to habitat encroachment and poaching, a conservation program takes lion cubs whose parents have been killed and raises them in their natural environment until they are 18 months old. Later, they are then put into the wild to hunt, mate and have cubs.

In addition to the “walk with the lions,” the visitors said there was much to see and admire in the scenery and in the history and culture of South Africa, where the people and leaders brought an end to apartheid.

“The pride the people feel in their country, their love for Nelson Mandela and Rev. Desmond Tutu, their desire to look forward and have hope in their future was not only tangible, it was palpable,” the women, who live in Sun Lakes, agreed.