South African Safari with the Lauers
A Dream Trip Comes True
15-27 September, 2023

I think the shape of this wine spillage is quite appropriate for the tale I'll be telling in this page.

click on the the pictures for larger views

Grab an adult beverage, sit back and enjoy my long windy on the trip of dreams that took four of us a third of the way around the world.

This is our story of a twelve day trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe with the Lauers.

For as long as I can recall Africa has been a place of wonder and dreams for me. It has always been somewhere that I've wanted to go to. I have an aunt that used to be a stewardess (they weren't called flight attendants back then) for TWA in the 1960s and she flew to Africa quite a bit. She'd bring me back trinkets and such on occasion. She's the one that perked my initial interest in the continent and planted a small seed some 55ish years ago. That seed has grown over the years.

My mother was also enthusiastic about nature (probably why I developed my love for it) and every time that the National Audubon Society would have a film presentation at the Civic Center in McAllen, TX where I grew up, we'd go watch these incredible films of nature. I still remember watching videos of the clouds boiling and moving so quickly. I wanted to see them move like they did on the big screen in real life. I didn't know then that they were time lapse videos, I thought it was just part of the magic of Africa.

Over the years I've kept the fascination of nature and desire to fill my pea brain with anything about it, that I could get my hands on, alive. I've seen pretty much all of the National Geographic or Discovery Channel shows, or the likes, about the country. Amazing scenery, amazing animals, the oldest cultures in our world, the dawn of our existence all reside on the continent of Africa and I finally got to go experience a tiny part of the country with my wife Robyn and our dear friends Murph and Shari.

Back sometime around April of '23 I get a text message from Murph asking if we're interested in joining he and his wife Shari on an African safari.

Seriously? YES!!!! Of course we are!

They'd purchased at an auction a twelve day tour of South Africa just before the Covid crap decided to descend upon the world and their trip was shut down for a spell. As the world become un-paranoid about the pandemic, travel opened back up and when it did Murph was gracious enough to offer up the idea of us joining in.

Murph, Myself, Shari and Robyn in the Phoenix airport fresh and ready for adventure.

Many text messages, phone calls and emails later, Robyn and I had arrangements to tag along with our dear friends.

The four of us were off to spend eleven days (I think it was eleven... By the time we left, I'd lost track of days, what day it was, what airport I was going to, what time we were getting up, etc.. My internal clock is corrupt as I sit here typing away.) exploring some amazing places in South Africa.

9/15/2023 - Friday The safari (what I've discovered is a fancy way of saying "we went on a trip into the bush") started on the morning of Friday, September 15th via a flight from Phoenix to Atlanta around 10:30a. (flight #1) Four hours of flight to our international departure destination later and we arrived, went through customs, had everything checked in and then waited on our flight to South Africa to board.

From Atlanta we hopped on the plane and left the soil of our country about 9:30 in the evening. (flight #2)
Johannesburg, South Africa here we come!

9/16/2023 - Saturday 13:35 hours of flight later we land at the O.R. Tambo International Airport. We're in another continent (check off one more for me: USA, Europe, Australia and now Africa) and it's 7:00 in the evening on Saturday the 16th.

Oh this is good on the body clock. Leave at night, sleep, get up bright and bushy tailed just in time to head to the hotel for the first night's sleep.
"Wait, what?" says the circadian rhythm...
Ah the perfect way to start off a trip: sleepy things aren't right.
I've always had an issue traveling from west to east with the setting of my clock. It takes a couple days to get right.

We stayed in Johannesburg for the night and then got up bright and early (a theme throughout this trip) and headed back to the airport so we could get to the first leg of our safari at the Zulu Nyala Lodge.

One third the way around the world

We're in Africa!

9/17/2023 - Sunday We arrive at the airport, get checked in (keep your passport handy at ALL times as it seems that anyone behind any counter wants to see it) and head to our gate. Instead of an airplane at the gate there's a bus. It's our ride to our plane. Everyone (16ish of us I think) loads up on the bus and off it goes down the tarmac. We pull up to a little puddle jumper of a plane, unload and head towards the twin engine air taxi. I've not had to walk on the tarmac to get on an airplane in a while. This is pretty cool.

It's going to take us to an airport in Richards Bay on the eastern coast where we'll meet our transport to the lodge. The flight (flight #3) took about an hour and a half. As I watched the ground pass below us I was surprised to see that it looks a lot like areas I know or have seen from the air before. Not sure what I was expecting, being in that we're in Africa after all. As we got closer to the little town and airport I noticed that there seemed to be large groves of trees, some as far as I could see. Interesting.

Puddle Jumper

If you can say this you win.

We come in low over the tree tops and land on a small runway then taxi back to the terminal. It's a tidy little hanger of a building and the people are very pleasant (something we noticed throughout the trip).

We gather our luggage and head out of the airport's front door to the waiting transport van.

Zulu Nyala Lodge is an all inclusive resort and we had a transport vehicle waiting for us. The lodge is about an hour and a half drive from the airport just out of the small village of Hluhluwe. This is pronounced shloo-shloo-way but all run together with none of the letters really being prominent. It's kinda like saying Louisville correctly; you just let it roll off the tongue.

One thing I did notice about the languages (they speak 11 different languages/dialects in South Africa and most people are capable of speaking five or more, including English) is that they sound like languages, unlike some of the Asian languages that seem to be a run-on of sounds and not words. I was very entertained by the two guys in our first transport that actually did the pop and click whilst speaking. It was the only time I heard it.

Welcome to Hluhulwe

The drive to the Zulu Nyala Lodge was beautiful and oddly familiar. I was surprised at how much the human aspect of it reminds me of being in Mexico. Small shacks and shanties in bright pastel colors, clothes on lines swaying in the breeze, goats and cattle wandering about the area. More on the round hut seen in the left side of the picture later. It's a Zulu thing.

The other area that the landscape really reminded me of is the land around Ballarat and Buninyong, Victoria, Australia. I had to message a few pix and video to my dear friend Gareth, who lives in Buninyong and say "Hey! Check this out - looks like we're headed to see you!"

People were walking along the road (many barefoot - I like this!) going where ever it is they go. Some were tending cattle, some goats. Many of the women, who wore brightly colored clothing, had something on their heads. There were road side stands selling fruits of all sorts dotted among the scenery too.

Along the road we saw the trees again too. Miles and miles, er, pardon, kilometers and kilometers of trees. There are huge farms that harvest the trees every seven years. The eucalyptus are used for everything from lumber and furniture to fencing. They grow straight, quickly and are strong. I was sitting on the puddle jumper next to a young man who was involved in the forestry in the area. When I asked him how many acres they farmed his answer was "I'm not really sure but it's a shitload of acres." I guess that pretty much sums it up accordingly.

Relive 'Ride to Zulu Nyala Reserve in South Africa'

Eucalyptus Farms for kilometers and kilometers

We arrived at our new digs around 3:00p, after a nice drive through the countryside. It's beautiful here. I was very entertained by the first few signs we saw also.

Welcome to Zulu Nyala

Nope Rope Chart

Okay, I admit it. I have a strange fascination for the things so many consider creepy. Insects and reptiles intrigue me. They always have.

Right inside the entrance door is a chart of the local snakes. Sixteen of them.

Oh yes! I want to see snakes!

Unfortunately I never saw any serpents, just a few lizards and one crocodile in the pond.

Robyn, on the other hand, came back to the room one afternoon very excited as she'd seen a Green Mamba slither across one of the main paths to the cafeteria. I was quite envious...

Shari's comment was the expected "Ugh!"

Someone has a sense of humor

We had just enough time to get our rooms assigned, throw our stuff into them and then get ready for the afternoon safari. Zulu Nyala Lodge does two a day. The first one leaves at 6:30a and the second at 3:30p and we'd arrived just in time to get "settled" and then meet our guide for the week, a wonderful individual named Wisemen. He's of the Zulu people with a fairly heavy accent - it took a little while to understand just what he was saying.

Tourists - isivakashi in Zulu

The lodge assigned guides to groups. We were introduced to a lovely family from Connecticut. We were seated at the same dinner table throughout the stay also so we got to get to know them a bit.

Safaris were a blast. Meet at the launch area (I think I'll call it the Safari Dock), climb into a pickup truck modified to hold nine people (three rows of three seats) and head off into the bush to see what we could see.

It didn't take long at all to start seeing animals. A few minutes in and we're excited to see Nyala (pronounced en-yala) and Impala. These are often found together as you can see.

Ooooh, look! Wildlife, COOL! I've seen this on TV and now we're darned near in touching distance. Wow.

Safari Dock ready for loading

Warthogs - these things are skittish

Impala (not the Chevy version)



Black Rhinos

Pronounced Ze bra, not zeebra



Fun Fact: Wisemen informed us that Zebra are good at finding water so you'll see other animals near them because of that. They have a sound like a "bark" and of course, the obvious, that their stripes are unique like fingerprints.






We made it back to the lodge around 5:30p, unloaded, got a little bit of an orientation and then headed off to the dining area. We also made arrangements to take one of the daily trips outside of the Zulu Nyala Lodge the following morning in hope of seeing the "Big Five": Elepants, Lions, Rhinoceros, African Buffalo/Wildebeest, Leopards.

There were three rooms of dining tables, a bar and a buffet set up around a small courtyard. Each table had seating assignments. As mentioned before, the four of us sat with the family of four that we rode in on safari - very nice people. Our server, the lovely Madelisa (or something along that line, as some of the names are really hard to say so she said "Call me Mandy" and we did), tended to our needs at each meal. I'll admit I'm not used to service like we received as she was on top of absolutely everything.

The buffet was pretty much the same setup for each meal with mods on the meats.

Breakfast had a cereal area then it was fruit and such. Next was potatoes of some sort (changed daily) bbq style beans (quite good and eaten with breakfast locally), a large tray of scrambled eggs, a couple types of meat (snausage, yuck, and what they referred to as bacon - looked and tasted like Canadian Bacon to me so I was good with that). Next there was a grill with a very friendly lady who'd make you eggs how ever you wanted them, the toast/bread stuff and then usually a dessert and cheese tray. Move on down the line to the next room and you found beverages - juice, tea, coffee (yum!), etc.. I surprised myself by actually drinking some of the fruit juice. I'm not generally a fan of the stuff but they had one blend that was really good.

Lunch was, uh... We only ate lunch there one afternoon and there's really nothing about it that I recall standing out other than it was "lunch stuff" and not overly tasty. Oh well.

Dinner was a large spread like breakfast. Started out at the bread area, next came salad then the main course section. This usually had potatoes, some sort of fish, some sort of vegetarian dish (the eggplant stuff was good) and a local game meat (Impala tastes like venison). The meats were all seasoned with something that I'm not familiar with. It's kinda funky, kinda cinnamon, kinda uhm, well, weird. Definitely an aftertaste thing. Then the desert and beverage bars were next.

After eating our selves silly our first meal we all headed back to the rooms for some much needed sleep and internal clock resetting.

9/18/2023 - Monday We met at the Safari Dock for our first morning safari. I think we were all pretty excited to go out. We had a chance to sleep, had an idea of how this safari stuff worked and were here to do what we came to do - go see stuff.

Wisemen took us out into the bush and started telling us about the critters and some of the plant life in the area. He also told us about the preserve and how they were involved with other preserves throughout South Africa.

Here Wisemen is explaining about the Fever Tree and what elephants do to it. The Fever tree is pretty interesting. It's hollow and when it rains, water is trapped inside of the tree. This is a place for insects to breed, especially mosquitos. Because the tree offers shade and shelter it was a place that people would spend the night. They'd get bitten by the mosquitos from the tree and end up getting "fever".

It turns out that the tree's bark, when made into a tea is a cure for "fever".

The elephants also like these trees as food. The tree in the picture has been stripped by elephants digging their tusks into it and then peeling the bark loose. They also push the smaller ones over and strip the bark and leaves off of them.

Happy isivakashi


Female Nyala

Cool scenery






Female Kudu

Black Rhino

Black Rhino

We'd decided on the lion adventure as our afternoon outing. Instead of getting ready to leave from the Safari Dock, we met a transport bus and headed out.

Welcome to Manyon

The lion adventure didn't disappoint.

The company that runs the reserve (I believe it's roughly 50,000 hectares) keeps a tight ship and the guides and staff obviously know the area like the back of their hands. Our guide mentioned that because they are always out and about the animals didn't see them as a predator or prey, just part of the landscape. It was pretty obvious that the lionesses we came across were familiar with the safari vehicles as neither gave any attention to them. The reserve was also very careful to not stress the animals by having more than two vehicles in the same area at a time.

Our guide was on the two way radio and within just a few minutes we rolled up on a lioness snacking down on what was left of Pumba the warthog. He informed us that she'd killed it the day before and had cleaned most of the easily edible parts out quickly. When we found her she was sitting there chewing on the rib cage. The noise of her teeth going through the ribs was very easy to hear even though we were fifty or so feet away. All I could think was "Man, I'd stand NO chance." with each crunch I'd hear. We watched her chew on Pumba for a few and then she moved away and started calling her cubs. The three little cats came bouncing out of the bush. SO CUTE!!!

A river runs through

Mamma Lioness

Eating warthog

Moved it into the bush


Three cubs

The second lioness (sister of the one above) showed up after mom took the cubs back into the bush, grabbed the warthog carcass and took it down to the riverbank where her cubs were.

Brought Pumba back out of the bush

Doesn't look appetizing

You can see the warthog's tusks here

Nature at it's purest

Stopped off for a drink

The cubs enjoying what was left of Pumba


We moved from where the lioness was around and down the bank to the river where the other lioness, with the three five month old cubs, was. There were a couple of vervet monkeys in the trees and we drove under one really odd tree that has some sort of grape like seed covering it. I tried to get names of things tagged in my photos but I missed with this one. I had a hard time hearing the guide up front while I was sitting in the back row of the safari vehicle.

We also stopped and looked at one of the male lions on the property. There are three of them on the reserve.

This one had a hole in the top of his hips, just above his tail. He'd been an issue (teenage testosterone poisoning) and got moved to a reserve about 100 miles/160 kilometers away. Didn't take him long to get in a fight there, get damaged and then find his way back to the reserve we were in. He's been back ten months and still has a large wound. The guide said that he'd healed up well and they expected him to be just fine.

Nap time - it's what cats do

Vervet monkey

Vervet monkey

Tree of oddness?

Vultures starting to come in to roost

African Sunset

We headed home about 5:30p and were back in time for dinner buffet. Food was had and plans for the following day were made. Nap time. I'm ty-red.

Vervet Monkey

About 2:15a were woken up by a "barking" noise. Sort of small dog sound but different. Of course I had to go see what all the noise was about.

I grabbed the flashlight (brought my UV scorpion finder - found none), walked outside and looked up into the trees towards the noise.
Rustling in tree above then more barks. I point the light at area of noise and there's instantly movement through the tree top.
Followed the noise with the flash light again and it would wait for the beam (had on spot light) to get close and then move out of the light all while barking.
It's totally messing with me.

It finally came down and stopped on a low branch in plain view, stopped yelling, gave me a once over and then and disappeared into the trees. That's the only time I heard them make these noises.

Pretty tree

There's a troop of the Vervet monkeys that live in the property area. They sound like cats wearing army boots when they run across the roof. The sound confused us all at first.


9/19/2023 - Tuesday The resort offers a few "packages" outside of the resort itself. You can go see lions, go to the Tembe Elephant park, go to St. Lucia and a hippo cruise along with a trip to the Indian Ocean, go shopping in Hluhluwe, etc.. Isivakashi stuff.

Everyone that had come in over the weekend gathered one morning, we were all told about the options and then everyone checked off what they wanted to do. The lodge then took all the paperwork and decided who went where when and put together the outside trips.

The four of us had decided on the lion safari, St. Lucia river cruise and the Tembe elephant park as our side trips and this morning was St. Lucia.

Today we're taking a trip to St. Lucia to do a river ride, have lunch and go to the Indian Ocean. I'm not sure what time we left but I'm sure it was early - somewhere around 6:00a. Eleven of us, I believe, gathered at the front of the lodge and then piled into the mini-bus and headed on down the road for about an hour's drive to the river and a boat dock.

Happy Campers!

Relive 'Lodge to St. Lucia'

Just for the record, we did NOT hit 121 mph as reported by the above app. Relive likes to jump location on occasion and when it does it calculates the jump's speed and records that as the fastest moment. I hit a tick over 400 mph on my dirt bike once according to Relive.

The day at St. Lucia started out with a river cruise to go see hippopotomotomooses. Hippopotami?

Fun Fact: The name hippopotamus comes from the Greek words hippos, meaning "horse," and potamos, meaning "river." The ancient Greeks gave the name hippopotamos to a big, barrel-shaped animal they saw in Africa. English, using the Latin spelling hippopotamus, has kept this name. The hippopotamus is more closely related to the hog than to the horse, but the "river" in the name is right for an animal that always lives near water and spends most of its time in it. (stolen from a google search as I knew it meant river horse but I may as well share even more than you probably care to know)

Another Fun Fact: hippos in the water are called a pod and while on land they are a herd.

The transport van drove through town and pulled up to a shopping center. We were going to have lunch here. We all wandered about as the staff took our lunch orders and then once again, hopped on board the van to be ferried off to do the boat cruise. Our transport driver was having to herd cats.

We pulled up to a recreational area with a dock and, well what do you know, there's a boat waiting for us. We unloaded from the van and walked the plank out to the dock and then onto the boat. It was a two decker and I went straight upstairs - come to think of it I never bothered looking at the lower deck. I want sunshine.

The boat captain gave an announcement about safety, a few things we could and couldn't do and then off we headed into the bay looking for hippos.

Relive 'St. Lucia hippo cruise - St. Lucia SA'

isivakashi and the last photo of my hat.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Mtubatuba

Stealth Hippo

Just standing around


Nope, just joining the group

Happy, Happy Hippos

Moving away now

more isivakashi

White Breasted Comorant

African Black Snake Neck bird

Small Nile crocodile

We headed back to town and to the little shopping center and were treated to a wonderful lunch. The ambiance was great, we were upstairs and had a nice view of the area along with perfect outdoor lunch weather. We all ate too much (a theme thus far).

We also played isivakashi and purchased isivakashi stuff like T-shirts

Murph snagged a pair of Nike shoes at a very discounted rate compared to the US dollar. One South African Rand was $.0556 (just over a nickel) and the dollar is strong there.

Oh, Murph also bought, and I quote, "One bad-ass camera strap". Actually I agree, it is a bad-ass camera strap and he needed one pretty badly.
Score two for Murph.

After lunch it was time to go check out the Indian Ocean.

Cool, I get to tick off another box. I've drunk from the Atlantic and Pacific, now I get a slurp of Indian ocean. Interestingly they all taste slightly different. I hope I can tick off the Arctic Ocean - if we ever make it to Alaska (the only state I've not driven in), I'll get a hand full of water there. I seriously doubt I'll ever get to the Antarctic Ocean - it requires a boat and that water's COLD and I want nada to do with that.
Cold water: Killing since the dawn of time. Pass!

The wind was WICKED! As soon as we got out onto the beach, past the trees at the entrance, Robyn and I both got stung by the sand flying past. It was quite annoying. We had to walk about a quarter mile to get to the shore. We came across some funky sand, or something. It was black, sort of like pencil lead. It didn't stain and it was just a crust on top of the sand. I've never seen anything like it before.

I did get a kick out of the group that was with us. They were from the upper east coast. As soon as we got to the beach they all changed into their suits and got ready to head into the water. We'd already gotten to the water and were looking around when the geriatric crew came creaking past us and headed into the water giggling like school children. I admit it made me happy.

There were all sorts of swim at your own risk with the local wildlife signage posted. At the receiving area up by the parking lot and along the beach. Hell, I'm figuring out it's go out pretty much anywhere at your own risk. The amount of critters that can eat/stomp/thump you just wandering around is insane.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
No, the stuff here just kills you.

Black sand stuff

WINDY!!! Steady 40 mph/65kph with gusts.

Strike a pose

Beach isivakashi

It was WINDY!

After fun and play at the beach, along with relentless attempts to sell trinkets by a couple of locals in the parking lot, we piled back into the transport van and headed back to Zulu Nyala. We joined the other guests for dinner and then headed off to sleep. A great day indeed.

quick disclaimer - I think it was decided among the four of us that this was the least enjoyable outside adventure of the three that we did. More transportation seat time, the boat ride, while fun was slow and we saw hippos; kinda like seeing impala or nyala. After fifty or so it's like "Oh, another hippo." Plus I lost my hat. Damn. No regerts, just wouldn't do it again. Yeah I know it's misspelled...

9/20/20203 - Wednesday Everyone that's going to the Tembe Elephant Park is up bright and early on Wednesday morning. We met at around 4:30a at the transportation dock, piled into another transport van and headed off to see the sights. I snagged shotgun (which is weird there because the steering wheel's on the right and I'm sitting where there should be one) and chatted with Wisemen as we traveled through the countryside. It was about a two hour trip.

Fun Fact: The names of the African people in the areas that we visited are their given names. We thought it was a isivakashi thing at first but after asking about it we discovered that the names are given as tribute to the newborn child. Unfortunately we didn't find this out until later otherwise I'd have asked Wisemen where his name was from. More on this a bit later in this tale.

Wisemen shared all sorts of interesting info with me as we traveled. He lived about thirty minutes from the lodge and as we drove through his village he pointed over to the right and said "I live over that direction." We saw more of the same sort of life and living that we saw on our first drive from Richards Bay to the Zulu Nyala Lodge. People walking along side the road, vendor stands selling goods, goats, cows and the herders walking with them, school kids either walking to or waiting at the bus stops. The African morning was in full swing.

As we traveled I noticed that a large percentage of the homes had a round structure in the yard. They varied from fairly fancy, made of cinder block with metal roofing and painted up nicely on down to just adobe walls with thatched roofing. Being the curious individual that I am I asked Wisemen about them and he proceeded to tell me that this is a traditional Zulu meeting structure. Whenever there's a family issue everyone goes into the room for a gathering to discuss and figure out how to solve said issues. He said that these huts bring ancestors of the past into the discussion, providing insight, help and hopefully solutions to whatever is going on.

He then proceeded to informed me that these buildings can also be pretty much any sort of shelter that serves the need of the family. It may be a room for someone to live in, may be storage, may even be a place where they keep livestock. Regardless, when it was needed for family guidance and contacting the ancients as that's what it's main purpose is. Interesting stuff.

Wisemen and myself

The Tembe Elephant Park didn't disappoint. We got to the main entrance, Wisemen dropped us off and introduced us to our guide for the day. He was new, as a guide, and his English was on the sketchy side. I had a really hard time understanding him and I think he had a hard time comprehending a couple questions I asked (purely a translation issue). It's all good, though.

Almost immediately we came across a couple of young male giraffes having a bit of a joust (once again, teenager testosterone poisoning on display). Too cool! I've seen this on TV and now we're sitting here watching it happen with our own eyes. The two were just messing around, training for later in life when a fight has life and death meaning.

Fun Fact: Do you know how to determine the sex of a giraffe? We do! now...
Female giraffes have smaller horns that are closer together and have more hair on them.
Male giraffes have larger horns spread farther apart and little to no hair on them.

And now you know too.

It didn't take long to come up on a bull elephant wandering down the road after seeing the giraffe.

Relive 'Tembe morning run'

Rare two headed giraffe

You see something over there?

Safari in the bush

Elephant in the bush

Big elephant in the bush

Dung Beetle

Dung Beetle

Mahogany Tree

Rainbow Skink

Guinea Fowl

It's amazing these can hide in the bush

The first part of the tour took a tad over two hours. We headed back to the main entrance area and had breakfast. By far the best meal we'd had on the trip. The coffee was also extremely good and I'd not had my morning cup 'o joe and was jonesing a bit. I walked out with two cups in me and a nice case of the coffee buzzies. WHEEEEEE!!!

After lunch a park ranger shared a bunch of information about the area; acreage, animals found, how they deal with poachers, etc.. Shari and I played twenty questions with him and he graciously answered everything. He mentioned that there are eleven languages spoken through out South Africa. Many were similar to one and other, like Portuguese is similar to Spanish is similar to Italian. He said that if you could understand one of them that you could probably pick up key words and communicate with some of the others. Then there were the languages that just didn't cross over. I'm of the belief that each language is probably tribally based so tribes that were near each other were able to communicate.

We loaded back into the safari vehicles and started the second half of the day's tour of the bush. We started out by going to the Mahlasela Hide (if you can tell me how to say it I'll give you a cookie, after all, who doesn't like cookies?). It's a fenced off area that has a viewing post of sorts. It's a two story structure with windows and seats and faces out towards the water. It gave great views of everything wandering around drinking, mud bathing and cooling off. It was right at 100F/38C so it was a bit on the warm side for everyone from the animals to the isivakashi.

Did you know that birds can eat
up to 30,000 ticks per day?

Relive 'Tembe afternoon drive.'

There was wildlife all around the water including all sorts of birds.

I was late catching the warthog rolling in the mud. Did you know they can't swim?

This bull elephant came so close that it kinda spooked me. Man they're BIG.

Time for a dirt and mud bath.


Warthog & Impala

Warthog - they're skittish

Look Shari! Bird!

quick side story - The safari group headed back to Mahlasela Hide after lunch to see what we could see. I'd decided that I'd seen enough from both the upper and lower decks and head back out to the safari vehicle to just kick back, chill and listen to the world around me (not a lot of bird sounds much to my surprise). Robyn comes out after a few minutes and joins me. Shari's not far behind. We'll wait for the crowd to arrive and then move on.

Robyn needs something out of the camera bag/backpack I'm carrying. She reaches into the outer pocket and I hear "What in the world? CHOCOLATE!" I turn to look at what's going on and her fingers are covered in the dark, wonderful goo. Oh yeah, I put the last two pieces of my Hershey bar in the pocket this morning with the intention of eating it (who doesn't each chocolate for breakfast?) on the way here. I got talking to Wisemen and forgot about it. Being that it's now about 102F/38.8C the two pieces of chocolate had become one puddle in the bottom of the wrapper and was leaking out.

Shari is sitting behind the two of us in the safari vehicle watching the show with delight and entertainment.

Robyn and I managed to keep the mess to a minimum - I licked the wrapper clean, can't waste something good like chocolate. We always carry wet wipes for just such occasions (experience is a great teacher) so out they came. We had everything cleaned up and a grand laugh about the whole sh*t show in a couple of minutes. It's wonderful having someone that laughs with you over stupid stuff instead of jumping your case. I love ya Robyn!

Wandering by the water

Cactus tree - really cool

We're driving through the reserve and I'm noticing columns of dirt that don't fit the terrain. We're in sandy flat terrain and these columns look like someone's poured a grey colored mud in piles, generally around a larger tree.
There goes one. It's about 10 feet/3 meters tall.
There goes another, half that size, etc..
Wait, I've seen these on TV (surprise)!
Yes, I'm a nerd. A bug nerd. A snake nerd. I don't know why. Some people like pet rats or rabbits, I like the weird things. There's just so many of them!
It was here that my inner nerd hopped out and said "HEY STOP!"

Ant hill!

A Nerd and an hill

We finished up the safari at the Tembe Elephant Park and were picked up by our guide Wisemen. He took us home a different way than we'd come to the park.

We were going to have lunch in Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal at a place called Tiger Lodge which sits on the edge of Lake Jozini (I actually think it's called Phongolo), and is beautiful. We crossed a large dam as we worked our way through Jozini and down to the lodge.

Jozini Dam

Jozini Dam river view

View of the Phongolo river from the Jozini Dam

Lunch time location

Once again, an excellent meal was had by all. We had Wisemen join our foursome for lunch and enjoyed chatting with him. He's passionate about what he does and loves his job.

I don't recall what we stopped for in town (I stayed in the transport bus) but we headed through downtown Jozini and stopped at a local grocery store. Murph and a couple others went inside while the rest of us stayed in the bus and watched the parking lot tango of cars streaming in and out, trying to find a place to park.

As mentioned earlier, I really got a Mexico vibe from the first town we were in (Richards Bay) and the area around it. This was pretty much on par with that vibe but busier. People milling about, little shops painted bright colors along the dirty streets selling everything from automotive products to cell phones, nooks with a grill selling street food and pretty much anything else you'd find in any town center. This is one of those things that you have to experience to fully understand and now I've seen it on two continents.

The drive home was on the sketchy side, especially for Wisemen. The sun was starting to set and the traffic, both vehicle and farm yard, was thick. The number of herders of cattle and goats was impressive. They just walk along in the dirt along side the road keeping the animals in order (sort of). We had to slow down often to avoid hitting livestock or let animals back and forth across the road. Wisemen said that he didn't like driving the main roads, especially as the sun went down. I understand why.

10:38a Just what the doctor ordered

9/21/2023 - Thursday A day of sleeping in. We'd not booked any off site excursions and this getting up before the crack of dark had taken its toll on our foursome. We decided to skip the morning safari and just chill.

We pulled out four chairs, put them under the porch of our room and proceeded to get comfy while looking out at one of the many courtyards, put our feet up and relaxed.

Mimosas were required and therefor consumed. We're on vacation after all. We're supposed to be sleeping in, relaxing, enjoying ourselves and this was the morning we got that done.

Another bottle of champagne and orange juice was required and Robyn headed off to the bar to snag one. She came back very excited with a bottle of bubbly and a story of seeing a green mamba as she got to the cafeteria area. As I stated earlier, I was kind of envious. Here she's gotten to see one of the deadliest snakes on the planet go scooting across the sidewalk and over a little retaining fence. She was impressed with just how fast it moved.

Gotta hug a tree when you can

African Weaver Bird nests

African Weaver Birds

African Weaver Bird

Nile Crocodile (never smile at one)

This male was busy making a nest. It was complete after the second day of endless work.

The local Nile Crocodile swimming in the display pond (that was surrounded by fencing)

The rest of the morning and early afternoon were spent just chilling. There may have been some napping tossed in for good measure. I skipped lunch on this day. I'd been eating too much and wanted some reprieve from that too.

The 3:30p safari groups started gathering at the Safari Dock and we were off to go see what we could see once again.


Up above the trees



Large male Kudu

Pretty incredible scenery

Female Kudu


Acacia Tree

A quick comment on the plants we've seen: I came to Africa under the impression that the area we were coming to was similar to our desert here in Arizona. Dry, hot, dangerous animals, mean plants, etc.. I'm calling foul on the idea that the plant life is more "dangerous" than our desert plants. The Acacia tree (above right pic) is probably the meanest plant we saw. It's covered in long sabers of thorns and they're sharp and stiff. Murph had one reach out and touch him as we drove past and he was impressed with how well it impaled his finger. We have Acacia here too. They're not nearly as dramatic in size but they're covered in thorns and can do similar damage as the African cousin. But, for the most part, the plants we encountered were just basic bush plants. A few had some small thorns and there were a few cacti scattered here and there but in general, nothing that gave me worry. I'd walk barefoot (my usual foot attire) through the areas we saw without a second thought. Not here in AZ, EVERYTHING has thorns.

Sunsets were pretty incredible.

Last sunlight of the day

Weaver Bird nests

Weaver Bird nests

Crux - the Southern Cross

We got back from a really nice safari and made plans with Wiseman for a small picnic sunset ride tomorrow evening, bid him a good night and headed to once again eat too much at the buffet. Dinner down, everyone in our group down. It had been a great day of rest, relaxation and safari.

9/22/2023 - Friday Our last full day at the Zulu Nyala Lodge was upon us. We got up before the sun and met Wisemen and the other family at the Safari Dock. Off into the wild for our final morning ride. It didn't disappoint.

Fun Facts: A group of giraffes can be called a herd, a journey of giraffes, a tower, a kindergarten, a troop, or a corps of giraffes. The collective noun for a group of giraffes is a herd, although it can also be colloquially called a journey of giraffes. The term "herd" suggests a single group, but individual giraffes will come and go, which is called a fission-fusion society. Within larger, loosely grouped herds, there are smaller groups, and females bond more closely than males, often forming same-sex herds.

Fun Facts: A group of rhinos is called a crash, and it is not a herd. Rhinos are odd-toed hoofed mammals with three toes on each foot. Rhinos make an array of funny noises when they're communicating, such as growling and making trumpet calls. They can run up to 30 miles per hour, but can only see 30 feet ahead.
* info stolen from a Google search

Fun Facts: The Black Rhino has a tapered upper lip and narrow jaw. It's a leaf eater and the lip is used to strip the leaves off of trees.
The White Rhino (actually was wide rhino but the local dialect was misunderstood) have a larger, wider mouth and flat lips. They are a grazer and eat grasses instead of leaves.

This Serval did not want to be inside the reserve. It paced along the wall looking for an out.

Three elephants doing what elephants do, I guess

Warty Hogs

These guys are hard to get pix of

On the move

Walk on by

Cactus Tree in an Acacia

Big male Kudu

Big male Kudu

Vervet Monkey


Male Zebra - notice the thicker legs



White Rhinos

White Rhinos

White Rhinos

African Caped Buffalo


Acacia and trees

Love of my life

That was the end of our morning safaris. We got to see some really cool sights. The Serval was the bonus prize as they're very elusive and generally not seen.

Once we got back Robyn and I walked around the grounds and explored. The Zulu Nyala Lodge is quite expansive and has a lot to see. It has "tents" which are more like glamping, it has villas, two pools; the sunset and the sunrise, a Zulu village replica, a pond complete with Nile crocodile, a couple of restaurants and gardens everywhere. It's very pretty and the staff is constantly on top of making sure the place is clean, neat and pretty.

As we wander about we came across the troop of Vervet monkeys that live on the property. They were playing around in a small grassy area and on one of the buildings. There were three young ones literally monkeying around on the porch. We had to stop and watch. They'd come right up to me and look me directly in the eyes, probably with the same curiosity I had for them. As interesting as they were monkeys still creep me out and I do not trust them one bit.

Three Vervets monkeying around on the porch.

The monkeys heard me accidentally bonk my coffee cup against the concrete patio
and became very curious about the sound. That got me thinking.
I'd let them get close if they wanted to so I put my empty coffee mug on the rail.
One was braver than the rest.

We chilled for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon (once again, I think there was napping involved) and then gathered at the Safari Dock for our last safari outing with Wisemen and the family from Connecticut. This one was going to be a little different, though. We'd planned on watching the sunset from a quality vantage point, having a couple of adult beverages and just soaking it all in.

Our last drive out into the bush may have been one of our best. We got to see a mother white rhino and her little one munching on grass. We stopped off to the side and watched. They were only about 30 feet/9 meters or so from us. Mom just stood there grazing but the little one decided it was curious as to what this thing that just rolled up on scene was. It came to the back of the vehicle and started inspecting us. It made me think of a huge Frenchie puppy.

We also came across a couple of large male Nyala having a bit of a stand off. They postured but never decided to get into a tangle, no matter how much Murph was goading them to get it on.

BIG puppy dog!

Nyala standoff. No winner was declared.

Nyala Standoff

Zebra & Impala

White Rhino


Little one

White Rhino







We finished off the safari with a ride to the top of one of the larger hills in the area. Everyone got out and we all wandered over to the edge to get a better look at the landscape and watch the sun go down. Unfortunately it was cloudy so we didn't get the sunset we'd all been hoping for but regardless it was beautiful and a perfect way to finish the safari.


sunset isivakashi

Our Safari Tribe

Loading Up

We got back to the lodge, said our goodbyes to Wisemen, went in for the last dinner and then headed to bed. We didn't have to get up "safari early" to meet the transport back to the airport in Richards Bay, which was nice.

9/23/2023 - Saturday As per the norm throughout the week, we were ready for our transport ride, standing at the bus station of the lodge, albeit not at some ungodly early hour. We got our luggage loaded into a cute little trailer, hiked our butts into the bus again and our driver headed off to Richards Bay. We arrived at the airport about an hour later and started the process of getting our boarding tickets in hand and luggage out of hand. Passport, please.

The plane takes off (flight #4) and heads to Johannesburg. We land back at O.R. Tambo International Airport after about ninety minutes of flight, take the waiting bus back to the terminal and gather our luggage. Once procured we head out to the transportation area and start looking for someone with a sign waiting on us to take us to the hotel we'll be spending Saturday night, the same hotel we'd stayed in the first night we landed in Africa. Everyone scans the group of people holding signs and we're not seeing squat. What the heck? Same thing happened last time we were here. We find someone that's headed to the Radisson and commandeer his bus. Fifteen minutes later we're unloading and getting into our rooms. Ahhhhhhhh. I'm not gonna do anything today.

There had been talk of going out and about and exploring Johannasburg on Saturday afternoon. Nope, I have NO interest. I want to chill. We've been moving since we landed a week ago and I'm down for just doing nada. Shari affirms my sentiments too. Time to find some lunch instead.

This is where my timeline may become a tad unfocused. (yeah, that's a good way to put it...). Murph and Shari have disappeared, Robyn and I are wandering around. We bought a small tin of Pringles and I had fun messing with the lady behind the counter - kept telling her I was gonna just "borrow" the tin, no need to pay, right? She was a great sport about it. In fact, the next morning as I was trying to get change, she stepped right up and asked how she could be of service other than letting me wander off with stuff.


Robyn and I ended up out in the pool area and we struck up a conversation with a very nice young man that was visiting Johannesburg. Murph arrives back on scene and tells us that we have dinner reservations at 7:00p and that there's a dress code. There's also a nice looking bar next door to the restaurant. We needed to explore the possibilities of an adult beverage and fortunately we're up to code to go into the bar so we did.

The place is posh. Very nice indeed. Had a great view off of the outdoor section and an exceptionally well stocked bar. We sat down at the bar and the bartender is very obviously proud of his work and he should be. His attention to detail was impressive and he was a blast to watch work. I like observing people who enjoy their trade. He made a pina colada that hopefully tasted as good as it looked.

Orders were taken. Robyn ordered a pina colada, Shari had a sickly sweet cosmo and switched to a mojito with no sugar (which was very tart!), Murph had his "Tangurey and tonic in a terribly tall tumbler and if I can't say it, don't give me one". I decided that the margarita on the out tray was just what I needed.*

The drinks were perfect. May be (the first one of) the best margaritas I've ever had. That, of course, leads to a second round for everyone. Yeah, this is SO much better than playing isivakashi around Johannesburg for the afternoon. Round three is knocking on my door now. I hear you.

* thank you Shari for the correct Murph quote and drink orders

Pina in process

I'd noticed a different te-kill-ya in the fridge and asked if I could get number three made with it instead of the Cuervo Silver he'd been using. The bartender didn't understand what I was asking and poured me a shot instead. Robyn decided to join in so we both knocked back some (I can't believe I'm saying this) good tequila. I've now decided, since I'm having a Mexican drink and grew up next to Mexico, to teach our African bartending friend a little bit of Espanola.

I asked him if he knew any Spanish.
"Okay, I have two simple words for you." I held up one finger and said "Una, which means 'one'".
He nodded in agreement.
I then said "Mas, which means 'more'".
He smiled at me and if I recall we got him to say "Una mas" a couple of times.
To which I said "Yes, una mas por favor!".
He rewarded me with a third drink.

The decision was made to head out onto the patio area. Robyn and I ended up sitting at a table with the young man we'd met earlier downstairs and his two friends. One of them is an attorney and the other two, I believe, are teachers (I know for sure one is). Somehow another round of drinks (maybe two? unfocused quite well now) showed up - I didn't finish the last one that was served to me. Just before 7 Murph mentioned that we had dinner plans to which, I've been informed, I replied "I'm not fit to be seen in public!" I worked my way back to the hotel room and dropped onto the bed. I was very happy and my night was done. Robyn showed up a bit later with left overs from dinner. The steak was amazing.

9/24/2023 - Sunday I'm actually feeling very good but still tired. They didn't have top sheets on the beds, just a comforter. What? No sheet? This thing's HOT and I haven't set the thermostat to a comfy temp yet (did around 2a - world of difference). Woke up hungry, got breakfast and then readied to head back to the airport. The driver who was supposed to have picked us up the day before was at the front door now and very apologetic about missing us. No worries, let's head to O.R. Tambo and find our flight (#5) to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The airport is packed and lines are long. Glad we got here with time to spare.

I think we went through three separate lines that morning. I'm worn out and just following the crowd - actually I think the four of us were worn and blindly following one and other. We finally figured out what line to be in for airline check in. Passport please.

From there we went through security. Passport, please. Interesting... When we landed in O.R. Tambo earlier in the week, they didn't do any sort of checking of luggage or much of a security check as we headed to Richards Bay. This time we had to drink or toss our water, shoes off, more American style security. We all made it through with the exception of Shari - she got her same bag searched again all to no avail (thank goodness). Off to an international gate and more standing in line.

We made it to our gate, presented tickets and passports and once again waited on a bus to come snag us and take us to our sky taxi. Murph and Shari made it on the first bus. It looked crowded as it left and I get a call from Murph asking if we were onboard. "Nope, we're getting on the second bus. You guys look like you're packed in like sardines." Murph affirmed that the bus was crowded big time and Shari wasn't happy about the woman next to her invading her personal space big time (well, she was a big woman...)

Robyn and I, along with the other stragglers at the gate, got onto the second bus with room to spare, stretch out even. The driver kept getting out and helping other busses back into their spots. Once he was in and driving he was like an old NYC taxi driver - on the horn, motioning to his fellow drivers and basically putting on a comical, at least to me, show. We pulled up to the airplane just as the empty first bus drove off. Everyone disembarked from the bus and got into line to get onto the plane (flight #5) headed to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Africa.

We land about an hour and forty five minutes later. Touchdown in another country. Cool, I get to add another to my list.

We get off the plane and walk to customs across the tarmac. Oh goody, another line. We snake up a ramp and into the building and there a man greets each one of us, asks to see our passports and then points to one of ten windows. Go there when they call you. We finally make it to the window, passports out, paperwork handed over. The sounds of stamping passports are heard along with "Welcome to Zimbabwe".

Lucky, our guide for the next three days, on the boat and the transport driver helping get our luggage into the boat.

From there we took our luggage to another scanner, sent it through and then finally headed out of the airport. We spent probably thirty if not forty five minutes from getting off of the plane until standing in front of the airport looking for someone with a sign saying Lauer (we're 0 for 3 thus far). This time we've got a gentleman standing there with one. Bingo! He and his helper load our luggage into another transport van and we're off to our next destination - the Victoria River Falls Lodge. He proceeds to tell us the amount of time it's going to take to get to the dock (excuse me?) along with information that kuvhakacha (we've changed countries, we're not isivakashi anymore) would be interested in. By the way Zimbabwe, while a sliver of the size of South Africa, has sixteen official languages.

We drive through the little town of Victoria Falls and then down towards the Zambezi river. We follow a road that parallels the river for a minute and then pull up to a boat dock. Okay, this just got interesting. We're either being ferried to our destination or being abducted. Either way I'm thinking it'll be an adventure. We're all a bit confused with the boat but what the heck, why not? I ask Murph about this and he says he's completely clueless as to what we're doing and where we're going. Jane, the lady at Zulu Nyala, had recommended this additional trip and we were going in fully blind.

Let the abduction begin!

We take about a ten minute boat ride to the place we'll be spending the next two nights in. We come up to a dock and Roxanne, Valentine and two of the staff members greet us. We work our way up the dock ramp and are amazed at the view of the main building. It looks like something straight out of an old movie.

We're escorted to a seating area and then given a quick run down of how things work. One thing that stood out was the insistence that absolutely nobody tries to walk between buildings after 6:00p and until 6:00a. There's stuff out there that will kill you. Chris, the manager, told us that he's had three hippo encounters after dark, one resulting in him jumping up onto a deck and into the hot tub to escape. Okay, point made.

Our first view. Wow

The main entrance

Inside/dining area

Inside/dining area at night

Full bar and entertainment off to the right

Dining area

Lounge with a view

Our bedroom!
Owen came in every day to make sure it was all arranged just right.

We finish getting checked in. There's been a small issue. The cabin we were supposed to be put in had some issues and was off line at the moment. Because of the inconvenience (what inconvenience? This place is amazing! - remember, we're here sight unseen as to what Jane from Zulu Nyla had set up for us) ended up getting an upgrade to one of the private villas and taken to our new residence.

All I can say is WOW!!! Actually I think that was the only thing any of us could say for the first couple of minutes as Valentine shows us about.

Definitely wow.

Panorama shot off of the deck of our lodge in Zimbabwe. Zambia is across the Zambezi river, which we're located on.

As per our first lodging, an afternoon safari was planned. It was a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River to see some of the locals and watch the sun go down. Once again, Lucky was our captain and guide.

We met a group of three from the Dallas area and the seven of us boarded Lucky's boat. Lucky had a nice hors d'oeuvre tray and a small bar set up. I proceeded to drink myself silly on bubbly water. Not interested in any alcohol today...

The lodge is in the upper left corner of the above picture. The Zambezi is wide and has a few islands in the middle of it. We were going to go down the river on the Zambia side of the island and then come back upstream on the Zimbabwe side. We hoisted anchor (sounds so much better than saying we untied from the dock, don't you think?) and headed off downstream. It doesn't take long to start seeing animals.

African Fish Eagle

Open mouth is a threat

African Darter or Snake Neck

White faced whistling ducks

Nile Crocodile

Nile Crocodile

Nile Crocodile

Mangrove tree

And then the sun began to set.

Hey! Look this way.








Above our table

We headed back to the dock and were treated to dinner. It was four courses but I don't really recall what was on the menu. Some of it didn't fit my taste and I wasn't really feeling all that hungry. I'm also pretty tired from the day's travels and adventure. I had the meat (Nyala?) dish.

We did have an absolutely incredible sky above us. The moon was bright and had a ring around it. I'd finished eating and decided to go get a picture of the moon. As I stepped out into the driveway area of the lodge I hear a little rustling and then a set of lights on a golf cart fire up.
"Where can I take you?" says a voice from behind the lights.
"Nowhere. I just came out to take a picture of the moon" as I pointed up towards the sky.
"Oh, so you're not wanting to go anywhere? You're not wanting to walk to your room are you?"
"No, just take a picture."

He looked at me and then up again then turned off the lights. The sky lit up with moonlight.

I asked him about walking (not that I had any intentions of it) and he said absolutely not. He said that the lions liked to ambush hunt and would lay in wait along the trails. You're hit before you know what's happened. He also mentioned that the grazing hippos were the worst/most dangerous. I joked about having a flashlight in my phone and that I'd be good. He laughed and said "That just shows them where you are."

Full halo moon

I headed back to the dinner table and we were informed that our trip to the Victoria River Falls would be ready to leave the Safari Dock at 6:00a. Time to head to bed. We walked out to where I'd just taken my picture and our golf cart limo driver took us to our villa. We chatted for a bit, checked the scenery out and finally went off to nap land.

9/25/2023 - Monday We meet Lucky at the Safari Dock and take a short drive into the city of Victoria Falls. I'd dressed incorrectly. Didn't think it was going to be this cold this morning. Oh well.

Sunrise view

As mentioned earlier, I was impressed with how courteous people here seem to be to each other. We're driving down a narrow two lane strip of asphalt and Lucky points to the left "Elephants". Sure enough there were three of them just a few yards off of the highway. I'm telling you, these things can hide in the bush without issue. If Lucky hadn't pointed them out I'd have never seen them. I've been busy watching the bush as we drive past and have seen a few impala and a warthog but nothing as large as an elephant yet they're they are.

Anyhow, as I was saying, courteous... We drive less than a quarter mile past the elephants and there's a man walking on the side of the road towards us. Lucky stops and starts talking to the man and pointing back towards the elephants. We can't understand the language of the conversation but the hand gestures and such were plainly obvious "There are elephants back there." The man thanked Lucky and then went to the other side of the road before proceeding on down it. I think it's pretty cool that people seem to look out for one and other there. Here we'd pull out our cell phone and follow him hoping to catch video of an elephant grabbing the poor guy and tossing him.

We drove through the town of Victoria Falls. It was early but the town was wide awake, unlike when we'd come through on Sunday afternoon. People were busy moving about, opening stores, getting the day started.

Lucky took us to a parking lot in a small shopping center across the street from the entrance to the Mosi-oa-tunya or Victoria River Falls as it's now known. We parked and were immediately approached by the local vendors selling their trinkets and such. These guys are relentless and don't give up. They knew we'd be back and kept saying "Come see me after your tour."

We walked across the street and entered the park. I'm not sure what the arrangements between the lodge we're staying in and the park is but we had VIP status. The place isn't open yet, workers are tending to everything, cleaning and preparing for the day. Shops are starting to open up as are the food vendors.

We stopped just after entering the park and Lucky began to tell us of the history and the geography of the area. Pretty interesting stuff. He also took us to a display of seven, maybe eight different animal skulls. The elephant skull was sitting in front of the rest on display behind glass. It's absolutely massive. Lucky proceeded to inform us about the teeth, the tusks, the way the head's shaped and such. I was able to put my arm completely into and through the hole where the tusks grow from.

Howdy y'all

Zambezi River

Differences through the year

Fauna & Flora

Rainforest map

After the intro to the park we headed on down a path that lead us to the falls. We can hear the water rushing over the edge of the cliff and we can see the spray coming from it. We come to an opening and as set of stairs down to an overlook. Oh, this is pretty!

Sun on the rise

Good Morning

Down it comes

From another vantage point

kuvhakacha - Tourist in Shona

First section we can see

A little slow motion

The main section

Rainbow time

Actually dual rainbows

closer shot

The main gorge

Take a closer look at the double rainbow. The lighter one is actually a reflection of the bright one. Notice how the color bands are opposite?

Panoramic view of the main falls

Slow Motion of the main falls


The main fall


Put the tree down!

We finished walking along the path and enjoying absolutely spectacular views of the falls. From what Lucky was telling us, this is the low season. Usually you can't see the rocky floor at the bottom of the falls and everything that's not green is usually under water.

A few of us have been to Niagara Falls and it's completely different from Victoria Falls. They're both in the top three largest water falls in the world for height, for volume of water, for width. Both are amazing in their own right.

Warthog backside

Two kuvhakacha

The kuvhakacha crew

Only my fabricator buddies will get this.

I'm a billionaire!

We finished up the Falls tour and headed back to the safari vehicle. Immediately we were descended upon by the locals that resided in the little shopping center where Lucky had parked our ride. These guys are relentless! We managed to get away without any trinkets.

Murph was in need of some cash (we all brought minimal) so he asked Lucky if he could stop at a bank. He agreed and we headed back into the Victoria Falls business area. Lucky pulls over at a bank and Murph gets out. The three Dallas people are grumbling about it a bit. Meh...

After a few minutes Murph comes back out empty handed. Bummer. The two Dallas women complain a bit more about the stop being pointless. Lucky says he knows of another bank and we head off through the town to another stop. Murph gets out and heads into the bank. The two women complain even more.

Whilst waiting on Murph and listening to the two women now openly bitching about Murph taking up their valuable time (Hmmm... they really do have the Dallas/Scottsdale attitude. Stop whining!) I'm approached by a very skinny man. He holds up some bills and starts trying to off them on me. He's holding a few of the currency bills from Zimbabwe before the last regime change and the amount on them is comical. For roughly eleven US dollars I became a billionaire. I've collected monies from all over the world and places I've traveled too. This was just a fun addition. The money's completely valueless.

Murph comes out of the bank after five to seven minutes and says "No dice. Can't get money." The two cranky women fuss even more. Eh, shut it! Lucky starts the vehicle up and we head back to the Victoria River Falls Lodge for breakfast.

Breakfast was like no other that I've ever had. First off, my eggs Benedict was wonderful. I think everyone else was enjoying their breakfast just as much. As we're sitting, chatting about what we've seen this morning and what sort of plans we want for the afternoon, the lady who's behind the front desk walks up and says "Did you see the elephants?" as she's pointing down the table towards the dock.

We look up a her first with the thoughts of "What elephants?" running through our heads. Then we turn in the direction she's pointing and pretty much all let out "OH! THOSE ELEPHANTS! WOW!"

There were seven elephants standing there in the area near the dock. A little one, two younger, another yet to be adult and then three females, each one larger than the other. The big dominate female was over drinking out of the swimming pool and then came over to the area under the large tree that shaded the grounds.

One of the larger females came up to the deck and sniffed around with her trunk. We were told a bit later that there used to be a planter on the deck and that every time she'd come around she'd eat the flowers out of it. They had to remove it after a while.

One of the females wandered over to the sprinkler head and gave it a tug. I hear "pop" and the herd all did a bit of a jerk (elephants don't jump) and stepped away from the water suddenly gushing out of the end of the PVC in the ground. Bingo, she'd scored a fresh water supply for the herd. She carefully checked it out and once it was deemed safe, she put her trunk right down on top of the geyser of water streaming upwards and took a big "sniff". She then transferred it into her mouth and had a big cold drink of water. The other elephants waited and then each took turns getting a trunk or two full of water. The baby was really cute drinking from it.

They can sneak up on you with ease! It's amazing how quiet they can be.

After she pulled the sprinkler head off it was drinks all around.

Fun Fact: Elephants have over 40,000 muscles in their trunks. It takes them approximately five years to master the use of it.

We watched with fascination as they elephants did their thing. The big on kept reaching up into the tree and pulling out vines to munch on. I got a kick out of her when one of the younger ones wandered up and started trying to snag some of the vines she was eating on. She turned her backside towards the young one and then held her right rear leg out to block it from getting up in her space. She whapped it with her trunk and gave a deep bellow/growl once too.

They stood around eating, taking mud baths and such for almost two hours. As they left they worked their way around to the front drive entrance and decided to mess about in that area. I missed the happening but I did hear Chris (main manager of the lodge) yelling and making noises at them. From what I was told one of the big ones decided she wanted a palm tree snack. She plucked the tree out, breaking the pot as it fell over, shook the tree about to get the dirt out of the roots and then snacked away. They ran off after ransacking the planted pot.

Snagging the palm tree

We're outta here!

Pot down

Beautiful BIG tree

There was a safari planned for the afternoon but we'd all come to the conclusion that all we wanted to do was kick back and relax in our amazing bungalow. In fact, we wondered if there was any way to have lunch brought to us. That would be over the top! I think it was Shari's original idea and Murph ran with it. "Pardon, Valentine, what are the chances we could get lunch at our place?"
"No problem, what would you like and when?"

Yup, this place is amazing. Orders were placed and we wandered back to the bungalow to just do nothing until lunch arrived (2:30p because they couldn't leave the lodge area due to elephants). Murph and Shari disappeared into their end of the bungalow, Robyn and I did the same. We spent the rest of the morning out on the porch soaking in the views and watching the wild life move about.

View from the bed.

Nile Monitor

Troop of Baboons


As Robyn and I were chilling out on the deck, we heard some thing making little grunts. What the? We wander over to the side of the deck and look down towards the noises. We're greeted by a mob of mongooses. They're cute little critters and really make me think of otters. I took the first part of the video from the deck and then went over to the deck they were under and dropped my hand down to film them. Robyn said they were very aware of my presence on the deck above them.

Fun Fact: The plural of mongoose is mongooses, not mongeese.
Most mongoose species are highly social animals living in busy groups of 6 to 40 individuals called "packs" or "mobs"

As I'm looking over the deck I see something familiar. Antlion traps. Really? They have antlions here in Africa? This needed more inspection. I've been playing with these little bugs since I was a kid in Texas. They're harmless an move in a funny way, backwards in little circles (this is how they form the pits). They make a pit and lay in wait for anything that falls in. The sides give way and the prey slides to the bottom and into a pair of open jaws. Lunch is served.

Antlion funnel


Rainbow Skink

Rainbow Skink


Valentine, Lucky and a couple of other staff arrived with smiles and food. So much food! There were sandwiches (called toasties), pieces of fish, a big bowl of "chips" (French fries) to go with the fish and they brought a nice green salad. To top it off for me, my dear wife had arranged for a pizza that was fantastic. They'd also brought all the fixins' for the pizza - anchovies, capers, pickles, sun dried tomatoes... I'm not sure how Robyn managed to pull off the pizza but thank you, thank you, thank you!

There was so much more food than four people could eat. There may have been some bubbly too - I refrained, still not interested in alcohol... We snagged Lucky and forced him to sit with us. As much as we tried, we couldn't get Valentine to join in the feast. He said he'd had lunch just prior to bringing our food to us. I think Lucky was very surprised that we insisted that he join us and was delightful to chat with.

Food and drink were had by all and Lucky had to leave us to go on a safari with the Dallas crew. We were supposed to have gone also but made it pretty clear to Lucky that we were in the process of just chilling and had no desire to go anywhere. He said he fully got it. We tried to send some of the sandwiches and food that was left over with him to serve to the Dallas gang. He didn't take it, darned it. hehehe

While Valentine began cleaning up we chatted with him. Shari asked about his name. Was it really Valentine and was Lucky's name his real name or were they names just for the kuvhakacha? Yes, they were their given names. Valentine went on to explain that in the African culture that names are given because of being significant in some way. Valentine was given his name because his parents had their first date on Valentine's Day. According to Valentine, Lucky was the 5th child and only boy thus named "Lucky" - Lucky referred to his child's name, I can't remember what but I think he said it meant "blessing from God" because they had issues having a child. As I mentioned earlier, I wish I'd known this when we were with Wisemen.

I can't thank Valentine and Lucky enough for joining us for lunch that afternoon. It was truly delightful and I hope that they enjoyed it as much as we did. I'm guessing by a message from him to Shari that he did. I'm very glad.

We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting among ourselves and relaxing - making the best of the last night of our incredible vacation. We went to dinner, came back with fullerer bellies and started the dreaded packing for the next day's travels.

9/26/2023 - Tuesday We have our luggage at the door and are all wandering around the incredible place we've just spent the last forty eight hours in getting our last memories tucked away. The staff showed up with the golf cart and packed our luggage away as we got on. I think there may have been some tears shed leaving this place. It was incredible. I know, I'm sounding like a broken record but it was incredible.

A Robyn in a tree

We proceeded back to the lodge and the guys took our luggage on down to the dock. Breakfast was eaten again (the Eggs Benedict was just as good the second time) and we waited for our ride. We were given notice that it was time and headed down the walk way to the dock where Lucky was waiting for us. A ten minute boat ride and we were at the original drop off point (I've truly enjoyed this abduction!) and the little guy that drove us from the airport is waiting for us.

Luggage and kuvhakacha loaded up in the van and off to the airport we head. Our driver started giving his speech about the area (pretty much the same one we heard coming to the lodge) and I decided to interrupt and have a conversation with him instead of playing kuvhakacha and listening to him. It was actually quite pleasant to talk to him, although I had to pay a lot of attention to what he was saying as his local accent was very strong. he said that he liked talking to anyone that wasn't from the area as he learned how to say things and develop his communication skills. Aha, I had an idea.

We did, very much.

When we had come in he was telling us about the land on each side of the road (to one side, national park, protected, safe for the animals, to the other, land that was owned) and the dynamics of the people and the animals. He'd also mentioned a "Tick" tree and stated that it was used for furniture and other things that were exposed to the elements and how well this wood lasted. I realized that he was actually saying "Teak" after he'd mentioned furniture. So on the way to the airport I asked him to point one of the trees out for me. He pointed at one (they're everywhere) and said "There's a tick."

I responded back "teak", he said yes, "tick". We spent the next few kilometers getting him to say "teak". I finally figured out how to get him to pronounce it "correctly" - at least so that kuvhakacha could understand.
"What do you drink in the mornings? Tea, correct?"
"Yes, tea."
"Okay, put a k sound on the end of tea. Tea-k."
He tried, it came out "tea-ick"
He tried again and it comes out better. He then sat there saying, in his heavily accented English, "Teak". He finally gets it, looks over at me and says "Thank you for sharing that with me."

He also shared with me info on getting a driver's license. He had his limo status and was quite proud (as he should be) of it. They have to go through a lot more there than we do here.

That made the ride entertaining and we both walked away from it feeling good about the conversation. I mentioned it before but it's worth saying again, we were all impressed with how nice everyone was.

She always has FUN!

We get to the airport after about twenty minutes or so. It went by pretty quickly since I was having a conversation with our driver. He drops us and our luggage off. Thank you, sir.

Outside of the gate there's a group dressed in tribal garb (not sure what tribe so I'll not guess) and every time anyone walks past the entry door they pipe up and start singing and dancing. Robyn's attracted to this like a moth to a flame. She LOVES dancing. Watching it and especially doing it. She pulls out her phone and starts videoing them and then hands me the phone and joins in with them.
Only my Robyn!

The four of us head into the airport and find the line we're supposed to be in. We watch people milling about and get closer to the counter.

"Passport and tickets please." Yeah, we're back in the rat race. I really like where I was just an hour ago so much better. Oh well. We get our boarding passes and head off through security and immigration. Passport please.

Airlink once again.

We find our gate and wait for the plane to arrive. We're headed to Cape Town next and then back to Atlanta.

The plane arrives, unloads and we get the okay to board so we file on (flight #6). Good bye Zimbabwe, this has been wonderful. Thank you for the memories. We're in the air at 1:15p.

We land in Cape Town International Airport at 4:20p and go through more customs (Passport please) and then find the international gate that we'll depart from in about three hours. We snagged lunch (a really good lunch) and then killed time with a little shopping and people watching. We weren't allowed to go to the gate until two hours before departure time. The two hour mark passed and we went through another security and screening (Passport please) and then were let through on to the gate.

When we went through the security area a young woman looked at our tickets and said "Go see the lady with the long white sleeves." Uh, okay. We go up to her, she looks at our boarding passes and says "This way" as she opens a rope gate. Huh, what have we done to get sectioned off? I have to ask what's up and discover that we've had an upgrade to some of the more comfy seats. Not first or business class but definitely better than the average seat. Being that we're getting ready to spend the next fifteen hours in the sitting position, I'm really good with a comfy seat.

Boarding happens and we're off the ground around 9:30p and headed west to Atlanta. We land fifteen and a half hours later at 7:05a on 9/27/2023 - Wednesday

We do the typical Atlanta train ride (from one end to the other in this case) and then find our gate to Phoenix. It leaves in about four hours. We board (flight #7) and spend the next four hours flying west across the USA. Touchdown right at noon. We're home.

The trip was one of those 'trips of a life time'. We discussed where it would rank on all the traveling that the four of us have done over our years and it's in everyone's top three. It's really kind of hard to rank trips for me. I've had a handful that have been just incredible experiences, but each one has been an experience of it's own kind so to say I have a "Favorite", I cannot.

Thank you Murph and Shari from the bottom of my heart for inviting and including us on this adventure. I hope you know how much Robyn and I appreciate your friendship.

One last thought - We had Wisemen, Lucky & Valentine taking care of us while in Africa. That's Wisdom, Luck & Love that we've been surrounded with. Thank you, gentlemen.
I think something much more powerful that we'll ever know was keeping a watchful eye on us.

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