A couple have told Ben Fogle that growing up in the Zambian wilderness has made their daughters more confident – in spite of all the dangerous wildlife lurking around.
Ruth, 36, and Lyndon Pinches, 39, moved from the UK to Zambia six years ago to open a safari lodge business where tourists pay £218 per person per night.
The couple admitted on last night’s New Lives in the Wild that there’s dangers from the local wildlife on the edge of the Kafue river, which includes lions, cheetahs, leopards, hippos and crocodiles.
In spite of the fact one of their friends was eaten by a crocodile in a nearby stream, the couple insisted that the Zambian bush is an ‘amazing’ place for their two daughters Indiana, nicknamed ‘Indie,’ and Ivy, who are both under six, to grow up.
They told Ben Fogle that there were initially worried about Indie and Ivy not having contact with other children, but added growing up in the wilderness has made the two girls more ‘confident.’
Ruth, 36, and Lyndon Pinches, 39, moved from the UK to Zambia six years ago to open a safari lodge business where tourists pay £218 per person per night to stay at. They are raising their two daughters, Indiana, called ‘Indie,’ and Ivy, in the wilderness. Thet met Ben Fogle for New Lives in the Wild, airing tonight at 9pm on Channel 5
The couple moved to Zambia six years ago with the aim to build touristic lodges and help with local conservation work.
They used Ruth’s saving from her teaching career and former soldier Lyndon’s army redundancy money to fund the project.
Ben travelled to the lodge by car to meet them, on the edge of the Kafue River, in Zambia’s oldest and largest national park.
He had very strict instructions not to get out of the car for any reason, due to the wildlife living in the park.
Upon arriving, he was taken with the beauty of the family’s surroundings, saying: ‘What an amazing place for the girls to grow up.’
‘We’ve had leopards coming through here, hippos coming out the river, crocs everywhere, loads of antelopes,’ Lyndon told Ben.
It was Indiana and Ivy who gave Ben safety course, warning him against going near the water, because of the crocodiles.
They also warned him against snakes, while their father added: ‘The day, you’re fine, just don’t go in the long grass, stay two metres back from the river,
The couple admitted in New Lives in the Wild that they have had to make do with the dangers of the local wildlife on the edge of the Kafue river, which includes lions, cheetahs, leopards, hippos and crocodiles
‘At night time we’ll always have someone to escort you around with a torch,’ he added.
Ben was blown away by Lyndon, Ruth, and their family, as well as the lodge.
‘What a place. It’s quite hard to find a family from a totally different culture, from a different country living here.
‘It’s quite a simple set up. I know that just behind that very thin canvas, there are crocodiles and hippos and lions and cheetahs, and that’s one of the exciting things about coming to a country like Zambia,’ he said.
‘But quite brave to have your two very young daughters living here as well.’
The couple are so isolated they have to harvest and forage as much food as they can, with Lyndon making trips to the nearby village to stock up on food and fuel.
When the family and Ben took a tour of the park, Lyndon escorted them with a shotgun.
In spite of the fact one of their friends has been eaten by a crocodile in a nearby stream, the couple insisted that the Zambian bush is an ‘amazing’ place for their two daughters under two to grow up
Ruth and Lyndon told Ben on tonight’s show, which will air at 9pm, that there were initially worried about Indie and Ivy not having contact with other children, but added growing up i the wilderness has made the two girls more ‘confident’
‘I’ve never fired it in anger at the lions or anything like that,’ the dad-of-two said of his weapon.
‘We like to think that we can know if the animals are there and take a step back just in case,’ he added
The family took Ben to a creek, where Lyndon warned him: ‘That’s a dangerous bit of the river, with lots of crocs here, so we have to keep a step back.’
He told Ben that Kafue crocodiles can be up to 5-metres-long.
‘And you’ll see them here, if you come in the morning you’ll see them basking in the sun,’ he added.
The couple admitted they knew people who had been taken by crocodiles.
‘Sadly we know quite a few people who have been killed in this very stream by crocodiles,’ Lyndon said.
In one particular instance, the father-of-two had to shoot one of the crocodiles who had eaten their friend.
‘Three years ago, someone we knew quite well actually, he was fishing just around here, and a crocodile took him,’ he said.
‘We just heard a scream and ran and just saw his hat floating. The wildlife authority came in to catch the croc.
‘Once they got a man-eating croc, they got to deal with it because once they got a taste for human flesh, they’ll just keep going for people.’
The couple have also relied on the help of the local community and members of the people who work at the lodge
In spite of these dangers, the couple trust that their daughters understand the safety boundaries they have put in place around the lodge
Lyndon had to shoot the crocodile, but said he felt no joy about it, adding: ‘I didn’t want to kill an animal, I never wanted to shoot an animal, I don’t believe in hunting but if this crocodile wasn’t killed, someone else was going to die.’
Ruth added: ‘It made it seem a lot more serious once we knew people who’d actually been taken by crocodiles. Suddenly like, this is real. It did make us take safety a lot more seriously,’ she added.
With the nearest hospital 4 hours away from their lodge, the couple have had to learn to deal with risk.
Ben noted they were ‘in the thick of it,’ and that the couple were ‘not living in a Disneyland version of Zambia, they’re actually in the midst of it.’
In spite of these dangers, the couple trust that their daughters understand the safety boundaries they have put in place around the lodge.
‘For lots of people, this is quite a comparatively risky environment to raise children in,’ Ben observed.
‘We never really have had an issue, I think because we’ve always been very explicit about the reasons why we have these sort of safety boundaries,’ Rut replied, explaining she told her daughters not to go near the river, because there are crocodiles there that will eat them ‘any chance they get.’
‘I think they’re very confident and very sensible actually,’ Lyndon noted, adding: ‘They’re not fearful, but they respect the bush.
The couple have also relied on the help of the local community and staff who work at the lodge for guidance.
‘The staff here are like the children’s uncles and they listen to the staff’s stories and boundaries as much as they do for me and Lyndon,’ Ruth said.
The two girls are being educated at home by their mother, who trained as a teacher, but Ruth admitted she feared that Indiana and Ivy could be impacted by the lack of contact with other children.
Ruth said the couple questioned a child psychologist who once stayed at the lodge about their daughter.
‘We really grilled him. We were worried about them not playing with other kids that often,’ she explained.
‘He said that actually, having me and Lyndon available 24/7 was really good for their confidence.
‘And we’ve seen that they are very confident,’ Lyndon added.
‘They’re very used to meeting new people and greeting them, showing them around camp, we’re proud of them,’ Ruth went on.
‘I can recreate school here. I know what it’s supposed to look like, but what I can’t do is give them other children to play with.’
She said one of the reasons they had their daughters so close together, was so that they’d have each other
The couple have had to face a number of challenges in the Zambian wilderness.
They had to live in a tent for a year while they build their first lodge, which took all of their money.
‘So now we’re in a virgin bush, a hole in the ground for toilet, at the time we didn’t have a water pump or anything so we had to throw a bucket into the river to get water for drinking and washing,’ Ruth recalled.
‘Actually, it was my favourite part of living here, as basic as you can get, but it was… I don’t know, there’s some enriching about not needing anything,’ she added.
‘But we went down to zero, zero pounds,’ Lyndon admitted. ‘But slowly, organically, we haven’t borrowed any money, but just over one year, were able to build a second chalet, we built it up bit by bit.
‘We just started so quickly, we didn’t really give ourselves the time to think, “but what if it goes wrong?”.’
After the first lodge was complete, the camp was flooded, with water reaching up to their knees.
Ruth and Lyndon had to rebuild, and while they said it was a ‘stressful’ time, they moved on to an even bigger challenge.
A couple of years later, a gas leak caused their freezer to explode and burn down the chalet.
‘I just started screaming at this fireball just going up the thatch,’ Lyndon recounted, adding the fire destroyed the chalet in just 15 minutes while he, Ruth and the staff watched.
The couple added that these challenges have only made their relationship stronger.
‘I genuinely believe hardship is really good for strengthening relationships,’ Ruth said.
‘We came here to try and do some good for wildlife and conservation. Although it’s through a business, I still think we’re doing something good for conservation here,’ Lyndon added.
‘The challenges we faced together as a team have been really fantastic,’ he added.
The family have had run-ins with poachers trying to kill the animals living in the park.
‘When we first arrived, six years ago, we used to hear a lot of gunshots coming from over here,’ Lyndon told Ben.
‘And often I would just rush out with a vehicle to see if I could deter them, scare them off.
‘The lodgers are quite important because we ae the eyes and ears for anti-poaching watch, because they know they can’t patrol the whole park, which is the size of Wales.’
‘Whenever we come out, we always look for signs of poachers, snares, things like that. If we see anything we can just report it,’ Ruth added.
Lyndon has had to fight his personal battles as a former soldier from the Riffles regiment who served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.
The father-of-two admitted he began to struggle with PTSD after becoming a father.
‘It reared its ugly head recently, when I had kids,’ he told Ben.
He described having ‘a few moments of panic and of feeling like ‘what’s happening here?’.
‘I’ve been seeking a bit of help with that,’ he added.
‘Having kids triggered some fear in me, a fear of danger or something gonna happen and it’s actually quite stressful sometimes.’
Ruth recounted how some situation, like storms, can trigger an high alert response from Lyndon.
‘The whole of the rainy season, when there was a storm, he was in high alert mode, he knew it was a storm, he didn’t suddenly think he was back in the war zone,’ she explained.
‘But he needed the kids to be in touch with him and to comfort him.’
The mother-of-two also admitted that the couple can sometimes struggle with loneliness.
‘This is a really peaceful place to live, it doesn’t feel intense, it feels really peaceful,’ she said, before adding: ‘When we got no guests, the guys are busy and it’s just me and the kids, it can be quite lonely.’
She explained she stays in touch with her family and friends via phone.
‘We’re quite lucky here that they’ve all come and visited at least twice,’ she told Ben.
‘When everyone is getting together, like the family is having a reunion and you’re not there, that’s really hard.’
The couple told Ben they don’t know whether they will permanently stay in Zambia.
‘By doing this project, we’d be living together, we’d be working together, and me and Lyndon and the children would be able to build a life where we are together every day,’ Ruth said.
‘We’re not planners, we’re not the sort of people who imagine what we’re going to be doing in five years.
‘I think we’ll do what we’re doing for as long as it’s working, and once it’s not working we’ll make a new plan.
‘You only live once, what’s the point of dilly-dallying and holding back? You got to just pursue all your dreams and what you really want to do otherwise you’re going to be 60, 70 years old and look back and think “What on earth was the point?”,’ Lyndon said.
His wife agreed, saying: ‘It’s easy to regret not doing something, and it’s harder to regret having a go.’
Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild airs at 9pm on Channel 5