This was my first vacation to Zimbabwe since 1997, so I was very excited to be travelling with my husband and two very good friends, none of whom had been on a real safari adventure before. We had begun the planning p rocess just after Joanie and Bill married last October, and this was to be their honeymoon! None of us knew at that time that it would also be a celebration of Bill beating cancer (our departure was just days after his final radiation and chemo treatment), so I had some trepidation that my love of Africa would not live up to their expectations. Africa did not let me down!
Finally, the departure day arrived, and we were off!
After a long and ti ring flight to Johannesburg and an overnight to recover, we set off to Victoria Falls, where we met our pilot and flew in a small charter aircraft to our first camp, Davison’s Camp in Hwnage National Park. We were greeted at the airstrip by our guide, Dixo n with our safari vehicle, and moments later encountered the first of what would be very many herds of elephant!
Hwange does have lots of other animals, and over the next two days we saw many!
The accommodations at Davison’s Camp came as a very pleasant surprise to my travelling companions. No matter how much I had reassured them that they would love staying in a ‘˜tent’ they really did not believe how comfortable it would be until we arrived!
All too soon we were beading back to the airstrip to board our charter flight to Mana Pools National Park, which is right on the edge of the Zambezi River. When we arrived, we were whisked off by open safari vehicle to Vundu Camp by our fabulous guide, Nick Murray.
We had time to enjoy a sumptuous lunch and unpack, and then it was off on our first adventure to find ‘˜Handstand’ a huge Bull elephant that has learned to balance on his back legs to reach the higher, succulent branches of his favorite trees!
The fun continued, as we walked across this open floodplain and came across one of Nicks best friends.. Mudzi!
Over many years, Nick has gained the trust of this beautiful elephant, to the extent that Mudzi now expects some special ‘˜treats’ and is not too happy if none are provided! We spent several minutes gathering acacia pods and juicy branches to share with Mudzi.
The next morning, Nick walked us to a pride of lion, very happily snoozing under shady trees and on a termite mound. They had just spent 2 days gorging on a young elephant, and all that was left was a pile of thick hide and a rib -cage. Thankfully they were SO full they had no interest in us!
The whole walking experience certainly got the adrenalin flowing, so we decided that we would take a relaxing afternoon canoe ride on the river, after lunch.
We enjoyed the afternoon so much (including the ‘rush’ of a pod of hippos charging into the water just as we went past!) that we decided to spend the whole of the next day canoeing, and took a picnic lunch along with us. This proved to be one of my best days in Africa, ever!
The scenery was stunning, the sky a perfect blue, and the hippos and elephant did not disappoint in providing some exciting moments!
Once more, we returned to camp and enjoyed a wonderful dinner, before heading back to our tents for sleep in our cozy bed, listening to the night sounds and the river flowing gently by.
But our fun was not over. We headed back to Victoria Falls to spend our final two nights at Elephant Camp, just a 10 minute ride from the cen ter of Victoria Falls town. Jonathan, the camp manager, welcomed us into a little bit of paradise!
Each room has: a lovely sitting area beautiful bedroom and a plunge pool!
Dinner that evening was the best meal of the whole trip. The food ove rall was terrific, but the attention to detail at Elephant Camp was five star.
The whole reason to go to Victoria Falls is of course to SEE the falls, so the next day we had a guided walking tour with resident guide, Esther. Esther has looked after and guided our clients for many years, and is now a grandmother, but each day (sometimes twice!) she strides out along the path edging the Falls, and shares her knowledge. She is indeed a treasure of Zimbabwe, and we are proud to have her as part of our extended family.
It is awesome seeing the Falls on foot, but to get a real perspective of the size, the best way is from the air, so we all jumped on board the helicopter for a 13 min ute ride over the Falls and the surrounding area. WOW!!!
The Falls are subsiding as the water level drops. From the air, you see the gorges, carved out over the millennia. Our adventure was over, but will remain in our hearts forever. Africa is already calling us back’¦..
Next time.. Cape Town!