Africa, Part 1: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Hello, all!

I'm so sorry this has taken me an entire WEEK to write! AH! We have just been so busy post-vacation that I haven't even had time to sit down and start this yet. We culled our photos, (we probably took around 2,000 and managed to knock that down by half), uploaded them to Facebook, started photo books, and ordered our last "souvenir" (a Mammals Guide recommended to us by our first guide, Nofias). That's in addition to regular adult-y things: two full-time jobs, training for my upcoming bouldering competition, and showing our condo to prospective renters.

In other words, this week has been SUPER CRAZY! But I'm glad to get to sit down and finally start writing this for you now!

Long story short, Africa changed my heart. It is a gorgeous, serene, moving, and incredible place to be. The people are wonderful, funny, boisterous and kind. I could literally have stayed for the rest of my life if, ya know, duty didn't call back in the States. Seth and I are a couple of hippies, and being there made us think a lot about ecological conservation (what are we doing to our planet?!) and the ethical conundrum of zoos that aren't exclusively conservation-based. It was insane to be able to literally see the whole Milky Way and a sky literally covered, skyline-to-skyline, in stars that we as Americans cannot see anywhere in our country (except maybe in North Dakota, but even then I doubt it could touch the African night sky). It was also sad to see all these animals in their natural habitat, then come home and see photos of zoos....really makes you think, why are they there for our viewing pleasure? Definitely brought up some thoughts on issues we hadn't fully considered before.

All of those issues aside, I know you all are wanting to see photos, and I don't want to disappoint. Here is a recap of our vacation, with some photos (though, if you're my Facebook friend, you've seen way more than these!):

I wrote about our plans and overall itinerary in this post. I left DC in the evening on June 26th, and met Seth and his family in Chicago. We left that night and landed in Zimbabwe in the afternoon (Zimbabwe time) on Sunday, June 28th. It was a super-long trek with layovers in Chicago (for me), Munich, Germany, and Johannesburg, South Africa. We spent our first night (just one night) at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, a less expensive and non-all-inclusive lodge in Victoria Falls. We chose to stay there our first night because of the lower cost and because we knew we would be too tired to do any activities. We showered, rested, and had dinner and drinks out on their huge veranda overlooking a watering hole, where we got to see buffalo, warthogs, and elephants come in for a drink. It was lovely and relaxing, and we got to see our first of many gorgeous African sunsets. :)

We transferred the next day by van and boat to the Victoria Falls River Lodge, also in Victoria Falls but along the Zambezi River. This lodge has only 13 rooms with two guests per room, and is not fenced. It had some of the most beautiful accommodations I've ever stayed in, and it was awesome to be situated in the bush with no fences so animals could come and go freely on the camp itself. The whole camp runs on solar power, but allows for the rooms to be climate controlled, which was nice since it was winter there (80 degree highs and 30 degree lows).

Here are some photos of the lodge and our room:

The bathroom had an indoor and outdoor shower!

And some photos of animals on the grounds of our camp:

Monkey action shot
A male impala grazing next to one of the rooms

The second night we were there, I woke up to a loud "thud-scraaape" outside our tent. I woke Seth up, because obviously, I was like, "Oh em gee, it's a lion, we're gonna die." And Seth of course was so excited he got out of bed and started tiptoeing around our room, looking out the windows, trying to see what it was. Turns out, it was a herd of buffalo. They had come onto our camp to graze and were grazing all around our tent. We could see three of them, but there were at least two more based on what we could hear. It was CRAZY. We stood shivering in the dark watching them grazing and walking within five feet of our tent for about 20 minutes before we went back to bed. (I assume, now, that the noise that woke me up was one of them running into our deck.)

This camp offered morning (6:30am) and evening game drives and river safaris, as well as a trip to Victoria Falls. These are some of our favorite photos from our game drives and river safaris:

A male waterbuck leaping away from our approaching boat
A male buffalo grazing
A male kudu antelope (one of Seth's favorite photos)
The first giraffes we came across - one of the highlights of the trip for me

A baobob tree with a hole in it, a very unique growth pattern for this type of tree
This baobob tree used to be pictured on Zimbabwe's national currency. Our guide told us it is over 1,000 years old.
Warthogs (our guide called them "The McDonald's of the bush", because they're everywhere.
One of many beautiful African sunsets

A male sable antelope, apparently an unusual find on safari - and we saw two!

We also got to visit Victoria Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world, while we were staying at the River Lodge. We got SOAKED. We didn't even bother putting on ponchos, because YOLO. Unfortunately we didn't get any photos of us completely saturated, because our camera was in a wet bag - probably a good decision. I was literally completely soaked to the skin, that's how much water rebounds off the falls. It was basically pouring rain. It was SUPER COOL. And actually really fun to just let go and get soaked!

We had a hitchhiker when we got back to the jeep. ;)
No, we did not provide that monkey with that lolli.
The staff at the lodge was wonderful. They even set up a private picnic for us (with a full, actual gourmet lunch and servers) on the island across from the lodge. It was crazy - we even got to see a hippo on land! They are HUGE!

If you're planning a vacation, I highly recommend you consider Africa. It is very expensive, but with some planning and saving it would be the trip of a lifetime for anyone that loves to travel (and especially those that love animals!)

What do you think? What would have been your favorite part??

(Part 2 at the Little Makalolo Camp in Hwange National Park, coming soon!)


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