Real Talk: Walking with Lions (While on my Period)
The original plan was shark diving.
The night before we were suppose to go, we learned that the dive had been cancelled due to rain, which still seems really weird because I don’t see how sharks would be bothered by rain. Not that I wasn’t relieved.
My mom, who was an epic travel companion, was the one who had wanted to go shark diving instead of wine tasting (my preference). Great white sharks are one of my biggest fears and maybe one of the easiest fears to avoid confronting in your life. Needless to say, the news that the excursion had been cancelled was not as disappointing for me, as it was for her. But we both agreed to find something as adventurous to do later in the trip.
About a week later, we’d crossed the border from South Africa into Zimbabwe, knowing the following day we would have a free day. On the bus, one of the women we had befriended mentioned that she was planning on walking with lion cubs the next day. Imagining adorable cubs and the opportunity to take a photo a la the movie poster for The Lion King, was enough for me. We signed up.
We arrived at the wilderness preserve at 9 a.m., and were told we would have a twenty minute orientation before meeting the cubs. When I thought of cubs, I thought baby Simba, but in actuality, we were told these “cubs” were 23 months old, one month shy of graduation aka being too dangerous to walk with.
The rest of the presentation ended up being a list of survival do’s and don’ts; like if the lions charge at you, put your walking stick in their mouth; never walk in front of the lions; don’t let anything blow in the wind; and lastly, if you cut yourself, tell the guides immediately so they can bandage you up before the cubs get the scent of blood.
I wondered if now would be a good time to mention I was on my period.
What were the odds that I was going to survive, smelling like blood the whole walk? Would it be better to announce to a group of strangers that it’s my time of the month and be told I had to stay behind (in the unguarded tent) or keep my secret, go on the trek and be devoured by hungry lions? I decide to go. At least with the group, I wouldn’t die alone.
We set off, single file, a guide in front and a couple guides behind us and the woman who had led the presentation, in the middle of the group to answer questions. After about five minutes of walking through the stunning terrain, we got our first look at the lions and I suddenly wished I was surrounded by great white sharks, because at least then I would have had the safety of a cage. For those who don’t know (and I certainly had NO idea), a 23 month old lion is the slightly larger than a Great Dane. They are huge. And lions. All I had to protect myself with was a stick and the knowledge that I could definitely outrun the older couple in the back.
As soon as we saw the “cubs”, they saw us. I blurted out to the woman in charge, “I’m on my period. Oh, my god – Oh, my god – is that okay?” She laughed and said, “It will probably be fine.”
Well, I survived (by hiding behind my mom the whole time, just in case). I opted not to try to take any Lion King inspired photos, but I’ll forever cherish the terrifying memories of not being mauled by lions while on my period in Africa.
After all, I am woman, hear me roar!
– Kelly, Los Angeles