We spent our first afternoon on the veranda of the iconic Victoria Falls Hotel.
Mary Ann, Byron, Karen, Randall and I selected a "Walk with the Lions" option we'd found on the internet before leaving home. This is a lion rehabilitation and re-introduction organization. Very young orphaned lions are raised by people until about 24 months of age, when they are released in a controlled environment where they learn to hunt and survive on their own. They cannot be released to the wild because they have developed trust for humans. Their offspring have no interaction with humans and once they learn to hunt from their parents they are released to the wild.
We enjoyed our farewell dinner on the Zambezi River.
You've heard enough about our camps and game drives. How about a little about our cultural interactions?
While in Zimbabwe we visited a local homestead, a compound which is home to an extended family. But before our visit, we stopped at a grocery store to buy basic foodstuffs for the family.
When we visited the family they introduced themselves, showed us their homes, offered us coffee and cookies, and told us about their lifestyles. This extended family is proud of it's traditional culture but is ensuring their children are well educated.
We also visited a school which the Grand Circle Foundation helps to support. There are 800+ students. Most classes have 40+ students. We visited a pre-school and 6th grade classrooms. We were astonished at the level of math (geometry) the 6th graders were studying. When we asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up, the most common response was pilot.
Zambia is a country of almost 15 million people with English as the official language and many tribal languages. It is bordered by Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.
The earliest known inhabitants of Zambia were the San, a group of hunter-gatherers who relied on stone tools to hunt antelope and search for fruits and nuts. Zambia was the San people’s favorite hunting ground up to the 4th century when other tribes from the north began arriving. The new tribes were the more technologically advanced Bantu people. As they migrated south they turned the hunting lands into farmland and the San were slowly edged out. Decedents of the San still live in this area and are known for their unique “clicking” language, but most of the other tribal dialects are derived from the Bantu language.
During our “Learning and Discoveries” we learned about the local culture. Though specifics vary from tribe to tribe, they have many things in common: respect, close extended family, large families (many children) are valued, etc.
Being polite is very important:
At puberty boys and girls are taken to the boma (an outdoor enclosure in each village) for puberty rights. (Boys are taken together separately from the girls.)
Most marriages are still arranged today. Sometimes the families make the arrangements without conferring with the potential bride and groom, but more often today couples choose one another.
Chitenge is a 2 meter length of colorful cloth. Single girls wear it below their belly button, wiggling their hips when they walk. “Unavailable” women (married or widowed and not looking) wear it above their waist and don’t wiggle their hips when they walk. The chitenge is also used as head-wear, to carry baby on back, etc.
We planned our trip for the end of the dry season when foliage is sparse and game more easy to spot. When we arrived, we found a parched land - not only because of the dry season but because of a 3 year drought. One night while in Hwange we had a nice rain and two days later the landscape changed dramatically.
The down side of being here this time of year is the heat. We did game drives early morning and late afternoon when temperatures were a bit cooler and the animals more active. Mid-day we had "siesta". We often took a nap with a wet towel over us to cool down. We knew it was going to be hot, but some days have been brutal even for us Arizona desert rats!
We have had exceptional guides. They generously share their knowledge of nature (wildlife, plants, etc.) and their culture. Mufuka is a good example. At 74 years old, he's been a guide for more than 50 years. Like many men here he has multiple wives - 3 in his case, many children and myriad grandchildren.
Because we've had sporadic internet service, my blog posts are a bit behind. I'll catch up - eventually. Stay tuned.
Our fourth camp is the Lufupa Camp at the confluence of the Lufupa and Kafue Rivers in Kafue National Park – Zambia.
To get from the Okavango Delta in Botswana to Kafue National Park, our home for 3 nights, we took a safari vehicle, followed by a small plane, then a van to the Zambezi River where we took a small boat-ferry to Zambia, another van to the Livingstone Airport where we boarded another small plane which took us to a dirt airstrip where we met our Kafue safari vehicles. The entire journey took us a grueling 9 hours, but it would have taken us more than 18 hours to drive it.
Along the way we stopped at a local village market.
Kafue is Zambia’s oldest park and is by far the largest – the second largest national park in the world and about the size of Wales. It has been little developed until recent years and is still a raw and diverse slice of African wilderness.
The game here is less habituated to humans and safari vehicles and is therefore much harder to spot. However, we had excellent guides who lead us to multiple antelope, countless bird species and 3 leopard sightings.
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