A few weeks have passed since my return from the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, Africa, and I’ve had a little time to really digest the experience, edit photos and try to do my adventure justice through words and imagery here.
Truth be told, an African safari was never on my bucket list. Sure, I’d always thought it would be an amazing experience but I had other dreams and destinations to tackle. Africa seemed so far out of reach. And then I was blessed with an opportunity I couldn’t pass up—one that I’m forever grateful for.
Our seven days in the “bush” was simply magical. This was no cushy sit-in-the-Land rover and peer through binoculars safari. We were literally tracking animals in the wild with our legendary guide, Stretch, twice a day for seven days. What we encountered was heart-stopping, exhilarating and once-in-a-lifetime. We were face to face with (and charged by at times) elephants and a lioness guarding her cub. We stood feet from a pack of lions, wild dogs, water buffalo, hippos, kudu, hyenas, elan, impala, baboons, zebras, crocodiles, warthogs and more.
I saw some of the most beautiful birds and sunsets I’ve ever seen. I saw the Southern Cross (not visible here in the Northern Hemisphere) and stars so vivid, you could reach out and grab them. I sat in the Zambezi River viewing Zambia’s majestic mountains just across it. I listened to elephants, hippos and hyenas stirring outside my tent at night. I watched a baby elephant nurse and in the same moment, two female elephants interlock their trunks in a display of affection that brought tears to my eyes. Did you know that when elephants haven’t seen each other in a while, they will do this to show they missed each other? Amazing.
I truly miss the African light painting the land in gorgeous warm tones. I miss tea time under a tree, enjoying a snack and a rest before more exploration. I miss our guide—our illustrious, fearless and funny guide, Stretch. His stories and laugh will stay with you. I miss the anticipation of what we might see and the excitement when we did see it. I miss random animals visiting our camp at any given time. You just never know what will happen on a safari!
One of the many blessings from my trip was one I didn’t foresee. We walked a lot – up to five miles each trek through the bush every day. I know that isn’t a lot to some, but for me it was quite an accomplishment. I haven’t been very active in the last few years due to a bad back and to be able to walk and get much needed exercise without hurting, really empowered and encouraged me. I love how God is truly everywhere and in ways you don’t expect. We just have to be mindful of it.
This year has been quite the opposite of my previous one – full of new friends and travel adventures, and more importantly the person that made this trip possible for me. Thank you, Jason, for bringing so much joy and adventure into my life!
And now for some favorites from Zimbabwe. A piece of my heart was left there for sure.
My favorite shot from this trip – she was guarding her cub and not too happy about our intrusion.
A typical evening drive – loved our group! (And that’s a statue of Ganesh on our Land Rover. Two of our new friends on the safari currently live in India and brought him for good luck while the Ganesh Chaturthi Festival was currently going on back home for them.)
Cindy had these lovely scarves made for all of us with “Let’s Get Serious – Mana 2013″ embroidered on them. “Let’s Get Serious” is one of Stretch’s famous lines.
Tracking animals with one of our guides – on the right, a hyena.
With Jason and Dan – thanks, Dan, for bringing us along on this great adventure!
Stretch watching for animals while Ganesh watches over him
Love this group shot all wearing our new scarves! Thanks again, Cindy, for coordinating this unforgettable trip!
And some fun shots from my Instagram:
Never leave your flipflops outside your tent at night – they make for a good hyena snack.