I’m not what you’d call an animal lover so going on safari would not have been on my list of things to do on vacation. But when my friends and I decided to go to South Africa, we also decided we’d do everything on each other’s lists.
Since all three of us wanted to see Victoria Falls, our travel agent suggested we do our game-watching in Zimbabwe at Hwange National Park.
She also recommended a lovely safari camp, Makalolo Plains, which is located about 2 hours’ drive into the park. Even when she told us that Makalolo was not like the kind of camp we would have been exposed to, I still didn’t know what to expect. We were very pleasantly surprised.
They treated us to tasty lunches, sherry when we returned at nights from game drives and sumptuous dinners, including wines.
Since the camp is surrounded by animals – elephants, lions, buffalos, zebras, giraffes, etc., we were surprised to return from our morning game drive on our second day to find lunch would be served al fresco.
Looking at these photos brings back warm memories of the wonderful time we had at Makalolo Plains.
When the alarm went off on our last morning at Makalolo Plains, none of us wanted to get out of bed. The hot water bottles that had kept us warm when we snuggled under the covers the night before were no match for the cold that had now permeated our tent.
I buried my head under the covers, lifting it just long enough to peek at the clock to figure out how long I had before I had to get ready for breakfast.
It wasn’t long. Soon, we could hear footsteps on the boardwalk and Godfrey’s knock on our door.
We dressed quickly. Cynthia and Tracey were in the Main Hall and greeted us as we arrived. Following breakfast, we said tearful goodbyes while Godfrey and Emmanuel loaded our suitcases into the jeep.
The previous day, one of the Makalolo team had offered to fly us to the airport but we had too much luggage – 6 pieces among us – to accept. Gosh, it would have been lovely to fly back instead of being bundled up as we were. As even with the fleece ponchos and several layers of warm clothes, scarves and gloves we had on were no match for the bone chilling cold.
By the time we arrived at the Main Camp, Sandra said she couldn’t feel her face. None of us could. We were frozen. Thankfully Godfrey had brought tea and biscuits as usual which we ate while he and Reason, our new driver, loaded up our suitcases into his van.
Leaving Makalolo had been emotional but more experiences awaited us in Cape Town and Durban.
My idea of the perfect get-away is a beach, preferably on a tropical island where I eat sumptuously, down drinks with lots of ice, party, and watch the sun rise or set, as the case might be.
I don’t ‘do’ safaris, camps or animals – well, except for the odd household pet. So what was I doing driving around an African bush in a jeep, binoculars at the ready, trying to spot wild animals?
Blame Judith (aka The Cat Lady). Judith, friend and traveling partner, loves cats large and small and when she told Sandra (the real reason we’re on this trip) and me that one of her three must-dos was a safari, I remember thinking black people don’t do safaris. We hardly even do parks. (Isn’t that the reason Oprah Winfrey did an entire show at Yosemite?) It must be something in our makeup, but these back-to-nature adventures just don’t appeal to most of us. No man, safaris are for old, White people. But Sandra and I are mildly adventurous, so we figured if we stayed close to our guide, we wouldn’t end up as dinner and have an interesting, different and definitely fun experience and lots of stories to tell.
Since we were going to Victoria Falls, Ruthie, our travel agent, had recommended Zimbabwe, which she said, has the best game. Sandra or I couldn’t have cared less. Heck, before arriving at Hwange, I had no idea what the Big 5 was. No, it’s not the lottery. The Big 5 refers to the animals most difficult and dangerous to hunt – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo.