Africa is simply massive,” said Joan Griffin.
She’s correct. It’s so big it makes up a fifth of the land on Earth and is home to 54 countries, more than a billion people, and some of Earth’s most magnificent beasts.
Joe and Joan Griffin are now in Johannesburg, preparing for the next phase of their African adventure. Their next stop includes Zimbabwe and a three-day stay at The Elephant Camp and Victoria Falls, The Kruger National Park, and a bush safari.
“With the elegance and luxury of the ROVOS train trip behind us, we spent some time in Johannesburg resting and gearing up for the next phase of our trip,” said Joe.
He explained that they would be going into the bush on safari, and it was important to conceal strong colors from any wildlife they might encounter.
“We wanted to dress accordingly but not look like great white hunters,” laughed Joe. “So we opted for T-shirts and shorts in neutral colors that blended in with bush surroundings.”
In Zimbabwe, their destination was The Elephant Camp — a luxury lodge with splendid views of the mists rising over the majestic Victoria Falls and the steeply carved gorges of the Zambezi River. “But it was the elephant sanctuary we were excited to see and to experience these magnificent beasts close up,” said Joan.
A safe haven for orphaned and injured elephants, the sanctuary’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and then release the elephants back into the wild. Joe and Joan, accompanied by a very knowledgeable guide, were able to get up very close and personal with some of the elephants.
“When the elephants came into view, it’s the sweetest thing and a joy to be able to stand right next to them,” said Joan. “I was able to put food directly into its mouth or place it where it could pick it up with its trunk. It was an amazing experience.”
“Elephants are very intelligent, especially at feeding time,” smiled Joe. “One of them knew 100 commands from its keeper.”
The Elephant Camp has breathtaking views of the Victoria Falls spray and the spectacular gorges which separate Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is a world heritage site and one of the world’s greatest natural waterfalls.
First discovered by Scottish missionary-explorer David Livingstone in 1855, Victoria Falls measures 350 feet, as high as a 35-story building, is 45 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty from pedestal to torch, and more than twice as high and wide as Niagara Falls.
“The roar of the falls grew more deafening as we approached, and what we thought were clouds was actually the mist from the water gushing downward over the edge,” said Joan.
Lucky enough to view the falls from both Zambia and Zimbabwe, our couple agreed the falls were spectacular. “The whole spectacle was so powerful and so unforgettable,” they added.
After a short flight from Zimbabwe, we find our couple at the Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. And the perfect location to enjoy close-up animal encounters and bush walks with trained trackers and rangers.
On an African safari, wildlife is most active when the temperatures are cooler, so the couple’s forays out into the bush were planned for mornings and late afternoons.
“Our morning expeditions took place as soon as the first rays of sunlight started peeking through,” said Joan. “We would meet our guides and drive out into the bush for approximately three hours, return for lunch and a short rest, then go out again in the afternoon,” said Joan. “That way, we could experience prime game-viewing.”
Before departing the US for Africa, the couple did some considerable study to gain as much knowledge as possible about Africa and a deeper understanding of the animals they may observe on excursions into the bush.
“We felt it was necessary so we could interact with our guides and make a more enjoyable safari,” said Joan.
“We were able to get close to all manner of wildlife, including buffalo, zebra, cheetahs, lions, leopards, rhinos, and it was absolutely thrilling,” Joe added. “And that was all because our guides were so incredible; from tracks, broken branches, smells, or bird calls, our guides could lead us right to where the animals were.”
“Although we were in an open-sided safari truck, we felt totally safe and cared for by our guides,” said Joe. “Tracking animals gives you a whole new appreciation for the African wilderness.”
Out in the bush for most of the day, back at camp, the couple enjoyed gorgeous accommodations — soft beds and delicious food. No small tents or campfire breakfasts for them — today’s modern safaris are thrilling and authentic but also very comfortable.
“We were pampered from arrival to departure everywhere we visited,” said Joan.
ONE MORE ADVENTURE THEN TIME TO GO HOME
Back in Cape Town, the couple opted to spend the remaining days of their vacation on a relaxing cruise up and around the Cape of Good Hope. The ship visited Walvis Bay in Namibia first. Then back to Cape Town and around the Cape of Good Hope, calling in at Port Elizabeth, Durban, Richards Bay, and back to Cape Town.
“We stopped off to explore Durban, Africa’s busiest port, founded in 1497 by Vasco de Gama,” said Joan. “He named it Port Natal then because he discovered it at Christmas time. It was later renamed Durban in 1843 for Sir Benjamin D’Urban, a governor in the Cape Colony.”
The couple’s excursion ashore took them past the Juma Mosque, famed for its turrets and massive gilded dome. Then onto the Victoria Street Market, commonly known as the Indian Market, to enjoy browsing the vibrant array of herbs, spices, delightful wooden carvings, and delicately fashioned ebony and ivory ornaments. Back on board, the ship then sailed to Maputo, Mozambique, Richards Bay, and then back to Cape Town, bringing our couple’s African adventure to an end.
All that was left was the long flight back home.
“Our African vacation was a wonderful travel experience, especially as we are wildlife enthusiasts and keen photographers,” said Joe.
“It was the perfect way to mix adventure with luxurious relaxation along the way,” he added. “It was a trip like no other.”