Africa, Part 2: Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

This post is a continuation of this one, where I detail the first three days of our safari vacation in Zimbabwe. This post details our overall itinerary and plans for the trip prior to our leaving on vacation.

A side note before I write this: It has recently come to my attention that Blogger does not play well with Internet Explorer. If you are accessing my blog from Internet Explorer and the formatting looks wonky, try opening it with another browser. :)

And now, on to more Africa photos and recap!

After spending three days and nights in Victoria Falls at the Victoria Falls River Lodge, we transferred via light aircraft to Little Makalolo in Hwange National Park, also in Zimbabwe. The plane that we took to this camp was a little 12-seater, and we were told prior to our trip that because we were taking such small planes that we had a strict luggage requirement of 44 pounds per person. We were also told not to take any baggage with frames or wheels, which basically limited us to duffels and carry-ons. We took these requirements very seriously! We all stressed and packed meticulously, and when we had our baggage weighed at the Victoria Falls airport, it turns out we had each only packed around 25 pounds each - a shoulder bag and a backpack for each of us.

When we landed in Little Mak (at the air strip they affectionately refer to as the "Little Makalolo International Airport, consisting of a bathroom and a landing strip), we saw a family with an inordinate amount of hard-sided, wheeled suitcases. We got our bags off the plane and met our guide, Eustace, who was assigned to us for the duration of our stay. He went to get our bags off the plane, and asked one of the other guides where the rest of our bags were - to which the guide of course responded that we had no other bags. Eustace was baffled! He was like "Really? No other bags?!" Apparently we are the only people that took that requirement seriously, but traveling light was awesome! There's definitely no going back now that we've done it that way! So much more convenient and streamlined, and much less stressful and tiring!



On our drive to Little Makalolo, we encountered our first [legitimate] herd of elephants. It was what the call a "breeding herd", of females and babies. (In fact, most of the elephants you see on safari are in breeding heads, as males are solitary.) It was just amazing. It was so crazy to get close enough to see detail and to be able to hear them flap their ears - in addition to seeing their protective behaviors and the formations they take when seeing humans.



Little Makalolo is quite a lot different than the River Lodge. First, it has a much higher concentration of animals (particularly elephants). Second, it is located far out into the deep bush, and third, it includes only six tents, so the maximum number of guests at one time is 12. These rooms are also solar-powered, but unlike the River Lodge, are not climate-controlled. It gets chilly in your room at night, but your bed has lots of fluffy blankets and hot water bottles, so it's actually really snuggly and nice! Seth liked it so much we are considering saving some energy by doing that at home during the winter months. :) The camp is run by Wilderness Safaris, a luxury safari operator with a strong focus on ecological responsibility and preservation. This is one of the reasons we chose to travel with them in the first place - foremost in our mind was that the companies and camps we visited were not exploiting the parks in which they were located.



The bathroom at this lodge also included indoor and outdoor showers, as well as an outdoor tub!
From our room, Seth and I could actually see a large watering hole where elephants would come to drink at practically all times of day. It was really incredible to be able to wake up, make coffee brought to your room by your guide, and look out the front door to the sun rising behind a herd of elephants drinking from a watering hole. It was really insane.

At the watering hole itself, Wilderness Safaris has actually built a log "hide" that guests can crawl into and sit and watch the elephants come and go without being super conspicuous. On our first evening, we sat and watched two breeding herds (as well as some males) come and drink from the watering hole. As an aside, our guide told us that if a baby elephant can still walk under its mother's belly, it is likely less than a month old.





Though we did not see giraffe in Little Mak like we saw at the River Lodge, we saw an incredible amount of wildlife, including hundreds of elephants, zebra, jackals, impala, kudu, sable antelopes, lions and a ton of bird life.

African eagle owl. Our guide said it is rare for anyone to get a photo this good. The red light is because during night safaris, the guides use red lights so we can see the animals without hurting their eyes.



Our guide, Eustace, with elephant bones

A lilac-breasted roller. The underside of their wings is that bright teal, but they were too hard to catch a photo of in flight!

A jackal
One of the evenings we were on safari, we stopped our truck so that Eustace could use his binoculars to search the surrounding plains. He saw a pride of lions off in the distance, which was really exciting as we hadn't yet seen lions. He radioed another guide that was closer to the pride, and we set off to go and see them.

The pride we found was about eight lions, four adult females and four cubs, primarily what they call "sub-adults", or teenage, lions. They were sunning themselves on a termite mound, which is exactly where our guide had told us we were most likely to find them. This was sort of a crazy night - we were on a plain with around 100 elephants, a pride of lions, and off in the distance, a few sable antelope. As we were watching the lions, they spotted the antelope and began to slowly, one by one, get up, stretch, yawn and walk toward the antelope. For a hot second, we thought we were going to see a kill. (I would have been traumatized, so I'm glad we didn't, personally.)






The elephants spotted the lions, and we got to see how elephants react to the presence of lions. They started stomping their feet, and flapping their ears, and trumpeting (so loud), in an attempt to chase the lions off. One of the adult female elephants also decided she had had enough of our presence, and started doing the same behaviors toward our truck. Eustace pointed his finger at her, said, "YOU!" and she backed off. It was crazy how much was happening at once! Seeing our first lion pride, watching them stalk antelope, watching elephants try to chase off the pride and maybe-potentially getting stomped out by an elephant. This was my face: 0.0

I would have to say that that was probably one of the best nights of my life. After the lion-elephant-antelope chaos, we drove to the other side of a nearby watering hole to have our "sundowners", or drinks and snacks. It's there that we got some of my favorite pictures from the trip.



We may or may not have also witnessed elephants mating (hence the dust in the last photo), which was a little ridiculous (we also saw ostrich and baboons mating during our time at Little Mak, and I am happy to imitate the ostrich mating dance for anyone that wishes to see it. It's pretty hysterical).

To anyone that loves to travel and experience new things, to get outside your little bubble and really explore life, yourself and the world: I highly recommend an African safari vacation. It is a large financial sacrifice to be sure, but with some smart saving and planning, it will change your life. Wilderness Safaris, specifically, is an absolutely fantastic company with some of the best accommodations and guides available (but that's another story to be told another time).

After saying goodbye to our wonderful guide, Eustace, who we had bonded with for the last three days, we boarded our flight back to Victoria Falls in a tiny little four-seater plane, where I sat in the back and cried because I was so sad to leave. Africa feels like home to me now, and I can't wait to go back.



10 comments:

  1. What an amazing adventure! I have always wanted to go on safari, it looks absolutely spectacular. I would have spent all day in awe of those adorable baby elephants.
    I think your next post should contain video of you doing that dance ;)

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    1. It was literally the most wonderful week of my life! I highly recommend it. I'm not so sure about that dancing post (although that would be hysterical!) I am considering writing a post about how we planned it, though!

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  2. Wow, the photos are incredible. Looks like the trip of a lifetime!

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    1. It so was! I literally could have stayed forever!

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  3. This looks amazing! What a trip!

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    1. It definitely was! There's a post about the first half of our trip, as well - we saw giraffes at our other lodge!

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  4. Wow what an amazing trip and experience that must have been!! Beautiful pictures, by the way! :)
    www.carmencreative.com

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    1. It was awesome! Check out the post about the first half of the trip, too!

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  5. Beautiful pictures, amazing adventure and I love those tent rooms you were sleepign in!

    Alex - Funky Jungle

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    1. Aren't they so beautiful? My husband and I decided we are going to decorate our future house like the lodges.

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