The Hemingway Safari Part 2
Upon waking, a tray of tea and coffee was arrives, with a hibiscus flower and little cookies. Oh, love this Vic Falls Hotel! And we’re off on an Elephant Safari! The brochure said “a 15 minute drive” but it is more like 45 minutes as we drive to the Nakavongo Estate.
When we get there, they explain that these are elephants which were babies when large culls of the elephant herds were made, and farmers adopted them. Elephant babies are SOOO cute, so adorable, but . . . they grown into elephants, and there is a constant conflict between elephants and land owners. Elephants clear land, they clear it by breaking and eating all the foliage. Long story short, when they grew out of cute and became adult, the farmers couldn’t or wouldn’t keep them anymore and there was a problem with what to do with them. Rather than destroy them, a group decided to try to train them, with great success.
Elephants are so intelligent, and really enjoy learning new things. They are kept on a huge 500 acre reserve, and only work 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon, and roam about the reserve the rest of the time. They sleep at night in stables, to which they return voluntarily at dusk, as there is elephant kibble to encourage their return.
Riding an elephant is a trip. We rode on Emily. There is a three person saddle, so the guide rides in front, then another person (that was me) like the meat in a sandwich, and then the last person. We had stirrups, and although the elephant rolls from side to side, I felt pretty secure, even though it feels very high up. We rode out to a watering hole, and then back, about an hour and a half. We learned a lot about elephants, how they are trained, how they are cared for, how they each have their own personality. At the end of the ride, after we got off, we were able to feed the elephants, and interact with them.
And then, they served breakfast. Somehow, we hadn’t understood that this was all part of the tour, but keeping people fed is a big part of the graciousness and hospitable welcome you receive. The breakfast that morning was served in an open lodge at huge long wooden tables. And it was anything you wanted, even omelettes made to order, and bacon and sausages and toast and hot cereal . . . the food was wonderful.
After breakfast they showed the video they had made of us riding the elephants. It was a total hoot, and we bought it. And when we got home, we watched it right away and relived all the fun we had that day, riding the elephants.
Returning from the elephant trip, we visited the gift shops, wrote some postcards and decided to spend some time by the pool. It was lovely. AH drifted off into sleep, I got to read a little, and we could hear the sound of the Falls roaring.
At five, we were to meet our guide for the Botswana Hemingway safari in the lobby, so we had time to relax until then. Promptly at five, we are in the lobby, but there is only one other person. How can this be? We knew that the minimum for running the trip was two people, and the maximum was seven, but only three people? Would it run? And then Godfrey, our guide, showed up and said that indeed, we three were it, AH and I, and a single woman from New York. We went to the Stanley room and had drinks, and Godfrey briefed us on what to expect for our safari.
We had reservations for a 7 p.m. African dance evening, and then reservations at 8 for dinner with him, again at Jungle Junction, which we love. Godfrey is not entirely reassuring. At dinner, as we talk, we learn that in the camping portions of our journey, we will have seven people with us, all Africans, and that most Botswanans are afraid of sleeping out in the bush. They are raised with a healthy fear of the wild animals, and prefer NOT to be too near them! We are warned to stay in our tents at night, not to wander outside the camp perimeter, and if a wild animal comes through, to just remain calm and quiet, and not confrontational, and the animal will eventually go away. This is a little disquieting, a little hard to adjust to.
What was I expecting? Maybe something like Disney does Africa, where the wild animals are friendly, not hungry? Where they are benign and sort of domesticated, not wild and . . . not wild. Unpredictable. He warns us about lions, about hippos, about elephants. Don’t get between a hippo and the water, don’t get between an elephant and her baby, don’t run from a lion but look him in the eye. Arrgh. And don’t yell. Don’t run. Don’t move around a lot. You’ll be just fine. Just sign this release, which absolves us of all responsibilities.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the Jungle Junction prior to departure, and watched elephants walking by outside the electrified fence, baboons inside the fence, and oh, what fun. We settled the hotel bill, and met Godfrey and our travel companion in front of the hotel at 8:00 a.m. And, my friends, this is just the beginning.