January 21, 2008 - Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe was never on the itinerary, but we had one day for activities and so we decided to cross the Zambia border into Zimbabwe and visit. Terry's passport is rapidly running out of spaces for visas or arrival and departure stamps. We calculated that every last clear space would be taken by the time we traveled to Tanzania, then Britain, then home. So this was a slight wrinkle in the new plan. The Zimbabwe visa turned out to be a full page sticker making it even worse. But we asked the border officer to use the amendments page instead of visa page and he didn't seem to mind.

What brought us over the border was the Lion Walk, a conservation program to help increase the lion population in Africa. Terry and I had a once-in-a-lifetime hour of walking with and petting these amazing and beautiful animals. We were briefed regarding safety and how to behave around the lions. If we showed any fear, the lion would sense it and torment us the entire 1-hour walk in a clash for dominance. We walked out into the park and met Lungile (male) & Lina (female) both 12-month old cubs that looked huge for cubs to us. We had 5 guides, one with a rifle used to fire a warning shot if needed. The cubs are raised by humans from 3 weeks old and domesticated. But eventually their instincts alone, not mothers training, will teach them to hunt and so are still very much wild animals and can be dangerous. But so is crossing the street in New York. Speaking of dangers, I nearly stepped on a Puff Adder hidden in the grass. And we were wearing keens! This is considered to be Africa's most dangerous snake because of its potent venom and willingness to bite. I stepped over it and the guide called me back to show it to me. It was the first one he had ever found on his own and he was proud. He also mentioned it was a bad omen for the person who spotted it.

Since we crossed the border for the lions we decided to make a day of it. We had an elephant ride schedule and had 4 hours to kill. So we visited the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls which is said to be the more beautiful side. As soon as we arrived it began to pour. We were once again drenched head to toe except for what our Gortex jackets kept dry. We walked the length of the falls which was longer and more beautiful on the Zimbabwe side. Then we took our wet bodies and headed back to town Victoria Falls town, a 15-minute walk. We had a local stew for lunch at Mama Africa restaurant.

Later Terry and I met Ms. Elle, our 4-ton, 22-year old, Savanna Africa Elephant for the walk. We had a relaxing ride. I was very hesitant to even book the ride. I rode elephants in Thailand I was not comfortable with the way they were treated. In Thailand the guides used sharpened prodders and the elephants had bleeding scabs behind their ears where the guides prodded the elephants to control them. Our Zimbabwe guide said that elephants are the third most intelligent animals after humans and dolphins. Whether true or not, I don't think anyone would argue that they are not highly intelligent. It seems that the Africans have a high respect for the animals and their elephants were mostly voice command driven. Their prodders were not sharp and they were only used to gently tug at the loose skin behind the ear to command the elephant to turn. Their elephants were also rewarded with snacks for good behavior. I was happy to have this opposing experience and have a new respect for the African people and their regard to their resources.


Lake 'Our Site'
Rewarding Ms. Elle
Scratching Lungile's tummy
Petting Lungile and Lina
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