Wild and Beautiful: Exploring Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana!

For whatever reason, my brain’s first instinct in starting to write about a new locale is the language, so here you go! πŸ™‚

We came to Zimbabwe already having been quizzed daily in the local phrases by a beautiful Zimbabwean woman we met during our first year living in Europe. We’d see her every day and have to call out good morning, answer her questions, etc.

Lest I make it seem like I spoke the language well, let me shatter any illusions you may be harboring: I did not speak it well. It was more difficult for me than the Kinyarwanda learned while in Rwanda or the little bits of Tamazight we practiced while in Morocco.

We miss the early morning sunrises in Africa…see more here in Tanzania, and more to come from Namibia in our next post.

And lest you think I’m being modest, allow me to illustrate my ineptitude with the following fact: It got to the point that when I saw her coming, I’d suddenly experience the most overwhelming temptation to duck my head and sidle up along the wall to pass her while avoiding eye contact and hoping she wouldn’t notice me. πŸ˜‚πŸ™ˆπŸ€£ (Or hit the floor and army crawl past her…just for the fun of it.)

But I couldn’t ignore that big beaming smile…so I’d always look up with a bashful/guilty smile, stammering something about how I forgot, “Ahhh! Help!”, or how my brain had apparently frozen that morning. I forgot things so fast. It was not the language for my brain.

sunrise over Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe side
Pictures don’t show HOW HOT IT WAS! We were walking slowly and still sweating profusely–at 7am. Be ready!
Zambia view of Victoria Falls (we walked across the border, went through border patrol and passport checks, etc. all to see it from the Zambia side!)
Day 2 of exploring Victoria Falls & surrounds.
We were here during the “low” season for the falls, which was recommended by some for the ability to actually SEE the falls! You don’t fully understand until you’re walking through the jungle around it getting completely “rained” on by the mist and overspray from the falls, at a distance…then you realize it. Incredible. We WOULD come back during high season just to compare…

We only had time for a relatively short visit, we were in the area for 1-2 weeks, so we focused on unique experiences such as 2 days of exploring Victoria Falls (one day on the Zimbabwe and one day on the Zambia side), Chobe National Park, and of course sampling FOOD!

Note: THE BEST AVOCADO I’VE EVER TASTED IN MY LIFE WAS IN ZIMBABWE!

I mean, I don’t even know where to start with this avocado. The exquisitely quiet, garden-like place we were staying at offered food, and when I requested some avocado and they brought me out a little dish full of a half of one,

and my life changed forever.

Man, I’ve lived in California for much of my life, where I’ve had a lot of good avocado.

Even throughout Africa, especially Zanzibar, we had some majorly high-quality avocado.

But this…this Zimbabwean avocado was literally in a class of its own. No one could tell me the variety it was, even though the crazy white mama was tempted to demand someone find out for her πŸ˜‚πŸ€£…it was that seriously universe-shattering…but alas. Instead, she relegated herself to joking with the guys there about

Did they realize how amazing their avocado was?

and

Did they know to henceforth buy more avocados STAT because she’d be eating them every day during the remainder of her stay?

This mama and baby elephant trying to cross the road are cute and all, but…unless they’re bringing me avocados, I’M NOT INTERESTED! πŸ€£πŸ˜‹

Ah, nameless avocado. I shall forever know it simply as “The Zimbabwean Avocado” during what must have been the peak of all peak seasons.

I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that I am now ruined forever from all other avocados, but if you want to say it for me, I wouldn’t argue with you.

Even the highly interesting plants could not dissuade Jess from The Avocado Enjoyment Situation.

WARNING: This is one of the many dangers of travel. You discover new things that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Sigh. One must accept this, and yet…

Grief. Avocado grief. It’s a real thing.

Until you know, you don’t know… Any Zimbabweans reading?

To the rest of you dear people: golly, don’t you feel like you’re learning tons about Zimbabwe from me? πŸ˜† This post is so deep and educational… From “I forgot all my phrases” to “Their avocados will haunt my dreams,” I’m expecting a sponsorship call from the Zimbabwean Ministry of Travel any day now.

So let’s pull this together/redeem with a big statement: Would I go back to Zimbabwe (and Zambia and Botswana) again?

YES! I for one would like to explore further afield, and all four of us have fond memories, particularly of the place we stayed in Zimbabwe with all the awesome people who worked there. Truly wonderful and memorable for life.

ALSO, because of the heat and therefore the pool we used every afternoon to cool down, our youngest daughter really started swimming swimming in Zimbabwe. Rwanda was where she took her first solo attempts, but Zimbabwe is where she really started going for it with confidence!

I opted to only use my phone camera on this entire trip…no SLR photos at all. It was a big decision but in the end I decided for minimalism and traveling light — I didn’t want to lug around a bunch of camera equipment for 1.5 years…and (we’re all) so glad I didn’t! πŸ™‚

Photos have been just fine without it…I’m no longer selling my photography so it’s just not necessary…

…even though I do miss the high level of control, I don’t miss the pressure I felt to spend SO MUCH TIME setting up to get perfect shots all the time. Just taking pics on my phone was a way of giving myself permission to enjoy the time with my daughters and Matt and myself and the places we were in, the moments we were in…

…but I still managed to take tens of thousands of pics so what you’re seeing is a ruthlessly-culled version for brevity’s sake. You. Are. Welcome. πŸ˜‰

A peek at the drive through Zimbabwe to the border of Botswana.

Our Botswana hotel was the most initially-visually stunning in all our Africa stays! But I wouldn’t recommend staying there…it’s what inside that counts. πŸ˜‰

One of the reasons we chose this spot was because it was right on the Chobe River.

After weeks of “land safari-ing” in Tanzania, we were ready to try a safari from a boat! And Chobe National Park is one of the best spots.

Baby elephant rolling in mud: entertainment for all!

We enjoyed the boat safari! It was a nice change from the overland vehicles we’d been in for so long, and gave a different perspective on many of the same animals we’d seen in the Serengeti and Masai Mara…

…with a LOT more alligators! (No photos because apparently I was too focused on 1) the alligators and 2) making sure my eager-eyed daughters didn’t slip between the railings into the water at just that moment.)

I’m the person on the river safari softly singing to Matt “Wanna Be a Balla” everytime the guide says the word “impala”… (Just in case you wondered what it’s like traveling with me. πŸ˜†πŸŽ€)

We also learned a great deal about the history of arguments between Botswana and Namibia over Sidudu Island from our guide, which was interesting…

…yes, that’s Namibia over there on the other side of the river!

We “hung out” with this pack of 4 male elephants for about an hour, watching them look for places to cross the river….

…which they never did, but it was still fun to watch them up so close thanks to the boat! (We saw hundreds of elephants in Tanzania, but you don’t want to willingly get so close in a truck!)

Even back at our hotel, we were entertained by dozens (hundreds?) of monkeys playing in the trees around us, and here’s a non-animal picture of a beautiful tree both Matt and I thought was so beautiful in person.

Even flying out of Zimbabwe after our time in this area, we got a look down at Victoria Falls again…

Where are we headed next?

NAMIBIA, BABY! I am SO VERY EXCITED IT’S FINALLY HERE! (I’ve wanted to see Namibia ever since some beautiful photography of that country wowed me years ago…and then the more I looked into it, the more it became one of my Top Africa Wish-To-See.)

While you’re waiting for my pics and stories from Namibia, check out our earlier Africa posts like

  1. Rwanda (the best ever!)
  2. Tanzania & Zanzibar (fun & adventure!)
  3. Kenya (minimal time spent here because of yellow fever warnings)
  4. Morocco
  5. Egypt pics (BC/before kids)
  6. Namibia (coming next!)
  7. South Africa (coming after that!)
  8. Madagascar (coming after that!)
  9. Mauritius (coming after that!)
  10. then to India…oh man, just wait for it! πŸ˜„πŸ˜‹

OR, if you missed it, you’ll want to see the European portions of our trip, such as

PS: Following these steps has enabled us to make our dreams a reality, create a home that worked FOR us (instead of the other way around)!

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