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African Adventure: South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe

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Written by Sharon Sinclair.

My husband and I celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary with a trip to South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Called the “Mother City”, Cape Town is a diverse city with many cultures and interests including beaches, mountains, harbors and botanical gardens. The waterfront area is alive with local talent, restaurants and shops. David, a Vietnam helicopter pilot, booked himself a helicopter flight over Cape Town, Table Mountain and down the coast to the Cape of Good Hope while I wandered through the many shops and enjoyed the local street entertainers.

We visited the Townships, a museum describing apartheid and a trade school designed to help underprivileged youth. Apartheid may have ended 20 years ago, but in Cape Town the sense of apartheid remains as strong as ever.

The Cape of Good Hope is at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula and the African Continent. Enroute to the Cape, we visited a penguin colony and took an exhilarating boat ride out to a seal colony.

A trip to Cape Town isn’t complete without a trip to the top of Table Mountain, a focal point that sits in the center of Cape Town. The top of the mountain is about 3,000 feet above sea level. The trip to the top of the mountain is by a cable car. The floor of which rotates 360 degrees as it ascends and descends the mountain.

Once on top, you get a spectacular view of Cape Town, the harbor, the mountain range leading to the Cape of Good Hope and Robben Island. Robben Island is a UNISCO World Heritage Site where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years.

We ended our stay in Cape Town with a drive through the winelands area of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. The wine estates, including Lance Bouma Estate, are beautiful with old world charm and African wines are a treat not to be missed.

TANDA TULA SAFARI CAMP

We left Cape Town with a sense of adventure, not knowing what to expect at our tented camp called Tanda Tula located on the edge of Kruger National Park.

The one hour flight into Hoedspruit from Cape Town was an adventure in itself. We flew over the dry vastness of South Africa in a propeller plane. The drive from Hoedspruit to Tanda Tula Safari Camp took approximately one hour on paving, sand/gravel and finally a two-track road through the brush and over a dry river bed to the camp.

Tanda Tula Safari Camp is privately owned and consists of 12 large tents with running water and full bathroom facilities, a lodge and Boma. We were greeted on arrival by the camp staff who provided us with warm, moist towels to wipe away the dust from our travel and refreshing drinks to wash the dust from our throats. As we were being escorted to our tent, we passed a warthog grazing on the grass in front of the lodge lobby. Animals run free throughout the camp and at night after dinner, or any time returning to our tents after dark, we were required to be accompanied by an armed escort. At night we could hear lions call and on one occasion, we found leopard tracks on the walk beside our tent.

We were warned to keep our tent zipped and locked with a carabineer to keep the monkeys out. We forgot one day and were followed in by two of the little scoundrels who made off with candy that had been left on the bed before I could shoo them out. Our next door neighbors left the sliding door to their outdoor shower unlocked. The monkeys were able to pry the door open and proceeded to trash their tent. They spread makeup, medicine, candy and stuff all over the tent. The monkeys enjoyed sitting on top of the open air shower and watched as we showered.

Each day at Tanda Tula was an adventure. At 5:30 AM, we were awakened and served coffee and biscuits and were in our Land Rover and in the bush by 6 AM. Our goal was to see the “Big Five”: Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Rhinoceros and Cape Buffalos. We were very lucky and saw all five plus many more. At about 7:30 AM, we stopped for a break and enjoyed coffee/tea, biscuits and dried fruit and then back into the bush. We took a breakfast break at about 9 AM. The breakfast meal was prepared using a wood-fired grill. The menu usually consisted of cereal, fresh fruit, juice, coffee, eggs, toast, and bacon and lamb sausage. Then back to the bush until lunchtime. We returned to the lodge for lunch and to relax in our tents or to enjoy the pool until 4:30 PM when it was back in the Land Rover. We rode until dark with a brief stop for Gin and Tonics and snacks provided by our guide, tracker and the wonderful Tanda Tula kitchen staff. Upon our return to the camp, we were treated to gourmet meals prepared by Chef Ryan and his staff. The menu often included Warthog, Kudu, Impala and Ostrich. After dinner we were treated by local entertainment provided by our guides, trackers and staff.

After five glorious days at Tanda Tula, we left reluctantly and flew into Livingston which is located in Zambia and then drove across the border into Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls.

VICTORIA FALLS (Smoke that Thunders)

Located between Zambia and Zimbabwe, the falls were at their lowest in water volume as it was the end of the dry season (their winter). Even with only about 1/3 of the falls spilling water, we found the falls to be spectacular. We enjoyed a helicopter ride over the falls and surrounding countryside. To see the falls from overhead was extremely interesting. The mist from the falls makes the area around it a green sanctuary in a sea of brown.

ELEPHANTS!

The Elephant Trek Safari at the Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary was another high point in the trip. Our elephant (Jake) was a 30+ year old who stood about 10+ feet high. When David dropped his sunglasses while ridding, we thought it was the last of the glasses. However, Jake’s handler was able to ask Jake to pick up the glasses with his trunk and hand them to him. Jake did this without damaging the glasses or even getting them dirty. What a guy! This endeared Jake to us for life. So much so, that I purchased a print of his footprint stamped on paper made from elephant dung and had it framed. On returning, after a slow but sure ride through the brush, we were able to give Jake his reward, a bucket of sweet grain pellets which we threw into his mouth or placed on/in his trunk. I was not tall enough to get the pellets into his mouth, so I put them in his trunk.

SUNSET RIVER CRUISE

That evening, we cruised the Zambezi River above Victoria Falls. We enjoyed a light dinner with wine while watching a hippopotamus and an elephant swimming around in the river. The evening cruise ended with a beautiful sunset over the river.

Our final day in Zimbabwe ended with a full Boma Dinner. What a truly fantastic way to end a dream vacation.

If you dream of visiting South Africa, you won’t be sorry if you fulfill that dream. Aside from the torturous 20 hour flight in each direction, you won’t regret your decision. It’s a truly different world. I often think, “Was I really there or was it all a dream come true?”