The Lusaka office of my company had a full day offsite at Chaminuka Lodge. We started the day off right with cinnamon rolls for the drive over to the lodge.
Most of the day was spent in really productive, interactive sessions covering topics such as the Zambia office’s role in the overall strategy of the organization, our values, how we work together and more!
In between all the thinking and team building we also got to check out some of the food and activities offered by Chaminuka lodge.
Both lunch and dinner were HUGE buffets. The variety of food was novel after several months of preparing most of my meals myself so I definitely over ate considerably. The highlights for me were the cheeses which they make on site at Chaminuka and the apple crumble dessert at dinner. I still regret not purchasing some of the extra sharp cheddar before we left!
We squeezed in time for a short safari game drive and a Cheetah ‘experience’
The game drive: was bizarre… maybe because I had very recently been in South Luangwa this seemed quite artificial to me. Chaminuka created a variety of different habitats in the reserve for different types of animals and fences between the animals. In some ways this reminded me quite a lot of the safari at Disney’s animal kingdom!
Lions: As part of the game drive we got to see some of Chaminuka’s lions. This gets it’s own section since they weren’t roaming around in the gated reserve areas but were literally in cages. Apparently the cages were to enable the lions to breed. They were also separated by age to ensure the younger male lions were safe.
Cheetah experience: We were all most excited for the cheetah portion of the day as this is what Chaminuka is known for!
When our safari jeep first approached 2 cheetahs just lying down in the middle of the path it was surreal. We all kept our distance initially and gradually creeped closer. Even watching the guards play with the cheetah’s fur was making my heart race!
We met the cheetahs initially by approaching them slowly and sitting behind them for pictures while they lay down. As we pet the cheetah’s they purred their appreciation which was a big surprise to everyone!
Next step was to get the cheetah’s standing up – this elevated everyone’s heart rates even further. But it was time to take the cheetah’s for a walk! We were told to loosely hold the leash in case the cheetah did go running so we didn’t get dragged along the ground… reassuring!
No cheetahs went running away… though they got close after they spied an antelope out the corner of their eye…
We finished up by posing with both cheetahs which was fun! Our faces were very close together which was scary when one of the cheetah’s turned to look me in the face…
The ethics of the cheetah experience – I should be up front here. The ethics here are questionable. It seems everyone in Lusaka has heard a different story regarding how these two cheetah brothers came to reside at Chaminuka. We heard they were orphans and brought to the lodge, at this point they are so used to humans they could not return to the world. While I hope this is true, it is still certain these cheetahs aren’t really living a natural life. They spend much of their day posing for photos with tourists or waiting in small holding cages. The limited time they do have to be ‘free’ is still in this fenced in zoo like reserve. It definitely felt wrong to hold a cheetah on a leash, but I’m always trying to experience new things and so I’m still glad I interacted with the cheetahs however morally conflicted I now feel.
In summary – cheese is yummy, cheetahs are cool, I probably wouldn’t make the trip to chaminuka unless you don’t have other options/ really want to play with cheetahs close up.