WALKING SAFARIS ARE FULL OF WONDERS

We went on another walking safari bright and early the next morning. Walking, we could ask more questions because we could stop, and Manda used every chance to use the bush as a classroom. I thought the huge, hard termite mounds contained termites, but the above-ground towers, sometimes as much as eight feet tall, were an intricate design that act as air-conditioning for the termite’s underground quarters. These quarters, where the termites lived, were as deep as the towers were tall.

We saw signs of spring sprouting up everywhere. Like our California forests after a wildfire, the first good rain sprouts new life from places that appear to be barren. Some of the wildflowers we found looked like a wild iris. Others were imaginative and broke flower rules with strangely shaped petals, or just one flower spiraling out of the ground in yellow and purple.

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 I knew the heat was going to be something I would avoid at all costs at home. But we were dressed for it, and all we could do was drink lots of water, wear lots of sunscreen, and sweat. On this walk, we balanced on soggy logs and tromped through muddy and swampy places.

We watched Manda and Priest’s hand signals closely. Once, we had to stand close together and hold very still on the edge of the dense brush and wait for some elephants (about twenty feet ahead) to move on. We only saw one snake dangling from a tree on this trip, but there are spitting cobras and black mambas in this park. When Manda mentioned that snakes climb trees and sometimes dangle from them, we shuddered at the thought and kept a wary eye above us.

There’s a healthy respect for what hides in the grass, trees, and logs we’re not used to watching out for at home. I had to keep reminding myself this was not a Disney adventure ride. While it seemed like the Garden of Eden because it was such a perfect, balanced ecosystem with room for every species, I knew that humans aren’t meant to be a part of it. We were spectators, and I liked it that way.

I was pretty exhausted and sore after that day's walk.  The next morning, I opted out of the morning drive and chose to sleep in and soothe my tired muscles. When I went into the dining room after a good, long night’s sleep and hot shower, Ian, the lodge manager, said, "Come with me." He wanted me to meet up with our group. I was curious, and by then, I was a little sorry I wasn’t squeezing every minute I could into game drives and walks, so I eagerly jumped into his Land Rover.

In about ten minutes after winding through the bush, we came around a curve, and I saw our group laughing and chatting over a breakfast cooked outdoors on an open fire off to the left of the road ahead. Ian wanted me to share that experience. I was grateful for his hospitality and the happy welcome from Manda and group. We enjoyed a full breakfast, with more food than I could imagine, in the middle of nowhere. Then it was time to go back to the lodge for a nap.

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