Lions, and Hippos & Elephants… Oh My!

Just a few minutes into my very first game drive in the Kruger National Park (South Africa), there was one thought going through my mind… Dang, I’m going to have to change my staff profile, because Africa is my new favorite place.

I’m Laura, an Africa Specialist here at Borton Overseas. I’ve only been here since February, but I’m already head-over-heels in love with Africa! Coming from a background of international travel and adventure, it only took a few weeks of building clients’ itineraries to iconic African destinations of Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), the Okavango Delta (Botswana), or the Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe/Zambia), before I decided I just had to go. I needed to see the places that I worked with every day in person – it really was the most responsible thing to do. It’s “for work.” Or at least, that’s what I told myself. The reality is, Africa captured my heart as a child. I swear I’ve seen every Africa documentary on Netflix (thank you BBC Earth), read the Born Free novels about Elsa the lioness, and I can actually recite the entire Lion King movie (I have no shame).

Parfuri Gate Mike And Laura
Parfuri Gate Mike And Laura

After a bit of research, I decided I wanted to share this momentous experience with the man who instilled in me my love for adventure and travel… my father! We decided on a 16-day overland trip through South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. There are many ways to experience Africa – from mobile camping to permanent, luxury tented lodges snuggled in a private game reserve. We chose to join a small-group adventure and participation camping trip as we were traveling on a tight budget and wanted to see as much as possible in the time we had.

Now, 24 days after leaving my heart in Africa, I am back at work feeling fulfilled and already missing the place I called “home” for 16 days. Part of me wants to tell you all about my trip, but part of me wants you to go to Africa and experience it yourself, because I know my words can’t explain what it is really like to fall asleep listening to lions roar or hippos grunting in the distance. So instead of giving you a day-by-day, I’m going to share my five absolute favorite Africa moments. My hope is that they will inspire you to visit this wild, stunning continent for yourself!

  1. Lions, and Hippos, and Elephants – oh my!
    Easily, my favorite part about this trip to Africa was the wildlife. There were plenty of times that I did a double-take while watching giraffes glide silently through the bush and thought, Wow – I’m really in Africa! These animals actually live here. It was so different than seeing them in a zoo. Some of our wildlife sighting highlights were a mother hyena nursing her baby, an African Wildcat hunting and killing a bird (right in front of us!), lions feeding on an ostrich they had recently killed, and of course the vast herds of elephant drinking and feeding while the babies played in the mud around their massive feet. Check out the gallery below for some of my favorite shots.
  2. The Victoria Falls
    Classified as the largest curtain of falling water in the world, more than 287,000 gallons of water plunge over the edge of Victoria Falls every second during highest flow. It’s hard to comprehend the immense power and size of these falls without seeing them in person, but I can tell you that the sight will take your breath away. We were at the Falls during high water season, and an unfortunate gust of wind brought the spray created by the Falls upon us, soaking us to the bone. It was hilarious. A Falls tour is a must, and there is a wide array of adventure activities to accompany the experience, including bungee jumping, a bridge swing, zip-lining over the falls, and arguably the most intense, 1-day commercial whitewater rafting experience in the world!
  3. Wild Camping in the Okavango Delta
    For three days and two nights, my little tribe of intrepid travelers slept under a blanket of stars on an island in the middle of the Okavango Delta (in our little tents of course). We were hosted by local guides who were born and raised there, and knew every turn and pool of the Delta (and the resident hippos who lived in them!). They poled us in mokoros (traditional canoes) and took us out on game walks. The experience was beyond words – we fell asleep listening to hippos grunt, lions roar, baboons shriek, hyenas yip and howl, and the occasional elephant trumpet. Our guides were incredible sharing their knowledge of the area, as well as their endless knowledge of the wildlife, local customs, and history. On our last night we were privileged to witness some of their traditional songs and dance by the campfire. All in all, it was an experience not to forget and one of my favorite memories in Africa.
  4. Food, Glorious Food
    When you think of camping, delicious and healthy food probably isn’t what comes to your mind. Think again. We ate like kings and queens while on safari, thanks to our incredible guide-driver-chef-mechanic-wildlife expert Lloyd. The food was always different, but usually made from local and fresh ingredients, and sometimes local game meat as well. During our safari we had bacon carbonara with champagne and ice cream; stir fry with onions, peppers, chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, and cheese; breakfast hash with green beans, peppers, onions, zucchini, cauliflower, beans, tomatoes, and eggs; kudu steak with potatoes and a vegetable mix; and so much more. Truly, what our guides were able to do with fresh food and the few pantry supplies they brought along was almost unbelievable. I ate better on safari than I do at home.
  5. Don’t Forget to Look Up
    There’s something about Africa. The landscapes that change with the turn of a corner, the sprawling horizon of bush broken only by the towering baobab trees, acacia trees, and the stars. Most nights we could glance up to clearly see the Milky Way and at least three planets, surrounded by millions (if not billions!) of visible stars. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced, and I remember commenting to my dad that I’d go back to Africa just to see the stars again. It’s true, I would. The first night we tried to find our favorite constellations… only to realize that we were in the southern hemisphere and our favorites were nowhere in sight! Luckily our guide knew quite a bit about the stars, and some of our adventure companions showed us constellations familiar to them at home in New Zealand. Almost every night I sat myself in front of the fire with a warm drink in my hand, head tilted back as I gazed at the vast array of stars above me.

Overall, exploring southern Africa was an experience unlike anything I have ever done before. I wouldn’t change a thing about what we did, and I am already planning my return trip. I hope this inspires you to plan your own journey to the wonderful continent of Africa! Contact us today so we can start putting your dream trip together.