As I write this, the computer radio station I’m listening to is playing the soundtrack to Out of Africa, and I have a full feeling in my heart and deep gratitude that still nearly brings me to tears when I remember standing in the open African bush for the first time. Seven years later, I recall the sight of vast sleek herds of antelope with their young standing in acres of shiny new grassy meadows, elephants moving like stately old dowagers in a steady procession for their evening walk across the South Luangwa River, and sunsets that can break your heart they are so charged with fiery colors. 


Our first morning, we had a quick cup of tea and a light breakfast of toast while it was still dark. In November, the beginning of rainy season, afternoons get unbearably humid and painfully hot. Regardless of how hot the sun baked us, however, the mornings made us surprisingly cold, and we needed to huddle under blankets from our chins to our feet on our drive to the hiking spot. Mists rose from damp areas with the rising sun, and we inhaled the sweet fragrance of rich earth and new grasses mingling with the fading scents from the night’s coolness. We unloaded from the Land Rover a bit stiff and prepared for our first walking safari. We carried only bare essentials because we knew we would walk up and down creek beds, and forge paths through thickets. Anything we carried, even jackets, would feel heavier as the walk progressed.

Manda led the walk, and a Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife scout named Priest Mwanza accompanied us, carrying a weapon that could stop a charging elephant or other dangerous wildlife. Manda helped us see details that illustrate how the ecosystem works in the bush like how dung beetles and other insects break down and disperse dung throughout the bush fertilizing soil better than I can at home with my store-bought supplies and that some species of trees only sprout when they’ve made their way through an elephant digestive system. Manda pointed out animal tracks, explaining how he identified them and gave occasional cautions, such as not wandering off the trail into thick shrubs where lions might like to rest after a night’s foraging.  If we needed to take a potty break, we waited for Manda and Priest to identify the safest place. We kept our voices down to avoid animals we’d rather not meet while on foot, like charging elephants or snakes dangling from trees. We had a lot to learn. 

Written by Patricia Cole

An Africa Hope Fund board member for 7 years, Pat is a writer and a conservation activist. After traveling to Zambia, she became dedicated to helping Africa Hope Fund provide education to the next generation of Africans and ensure their future by protecting wildlife. Find Patricia on Facebook and Twitter, or on her websites and

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Carol Van Brugen