Carol Van Bruggen recalls how, on walking safaris, she felt she was part of the earth. Like me, she says she doesn’t know where this love of Africa came from, but it hits her most strongly in nature when time seems to slow to a crawl, and she feels like she can breathe. Carol and her husband Steve got to know the two founders of Mfuwe Lodge, Andy Hogg, and Andrea Bizarro, who taught them about the valley history and introduced them to many of the people in Mfuwe Village, across the Luangwa River from the lodge. When Carol came home, she couldn’t stop thinking about Africa. The abundant wildlife in Zambia that she had dreamed of seeing for so long completely enthralled her in Zambia. When Carol started sitting down with clients again, as a financial planner and a volunteer on charitable boards, she dreamed about the animals, people, and countryside of Africa they had visited. Carol says if she believed in previous lives, she might believe she lived in Zambia. Something kept drawing her back. Carol decided to put her experience to work helping organizations dedicated to saving wildlife. Andy Hogg suggested she bring groups to the Luangwa to promote wildlife conservation. Carol has since returned to Zambia more than thirty times bringing people on safari tours and making it possible for all of us to help protect elephants through the nonprofit she founded, Africa Hope Fund.

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By the time we finished lunch after the long drive from Chindeni Bush Camp to Mfuwe Lodge, it was quite warm. Lindsey and I had a refreshing nap in our chalet with electricity and fans to cool the air and then joined our group for a lovely dinner with candlelight, linen tablecloths and napkins, and the obligatory gin and tonic. The next day we were rested up and ready for another game drive.

The deck, pool, and dining areas at Mfuwe Lodge overlook a wide portion of the Luangwa River where we watched elephants across the river make their way carefully down a steep embankment to slip into the water and splash themselves with water every day. They often make loud, joyful sounds with their trunks as they shoot water like a fire hose held high in the air over their backs. Elephants can breathe through their trunks and use them as snorkels when underwater. When drinking their 40 to 50 gallons of water a day, they take water into their trunks and pour it down their throats. When finished drinking, they use their trunks as portable showerheads, spraying their backs with water, and then they use their trunks to grab dirt and toss it onto their moistened backs to create a barrier from the relentless sun. As the sunset at the end of the Zambian day, the elephants seemed to form from out of a mirage among the thick swath of tree trunks across the river and take shape as they moved out of the wooded area and down into the river emerging darker grey at the waterline around their bodies and below.

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 www.writepatwrite.com and www.patmcole.com.

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Carol Van Brugen