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Published: July 24th 2019
Hello readers. We are happy to report that today was our last early wake up. We're glad we did it, though, as departing from our lodge at 6:00 meant we had the opportunity to spend some time with orphan elephants. The reserve we visited was home to ten elephants who had been orphaned. Most of their mothers died during Zimbabwe's most recent droughts. We were given information about their care and how they had been saved from certain death, but also that they had lost their fear of people, which meant they could never really succeed in the wild. Trained only with positive reinforcement, they knew their names and each other well. Our ground leader led us on a trail around the reserve and each elephant had a handler/driver who filled us in on the individual elephant's name and how they interacted with one another. Rich and Barb spent their morning with Kariba, and Jake and Jeannette spent their morning with Hwange, two big and hungry girls, aged 19. The visitor from Texas behind us spent time with a 39 year old, also female. Throughout the journey, the elephants liked to eat, sometimes grabbing entire branches the size of small trees and munching on them as they walked along. We all wore sweaters or jackets as the weather was cool. After the safari, we got to interact with the individual elephants and then got to enjoy a hot breakfast as all 10 of the family frolicked in the wilderness. It was clear they had become family to one another, especially when we saw a few pairs of them "tussle" just as we had seen occur in the wild at Kruger National Park.
We then returned to our lodge for some much-needed R&R. There hasn't been much down time on this trip, so we appreciated the chance to nap, catch up, and just relax. Rich and Barb had the chance to view a vulture feeding which took place on the sandy area below our lodge. The lodge ranger threw out scraps of meat and carcasses which attracted at least 200 vultures. Once this frenzy was over, there wasn't much left. Believe it or not, vultures are endangered because poachers poison them so as not to attract attention to one of their illegal kills. Environmentally, they are "cleaners" and necessary for nature's work. The ecosystem is not healthy with rotting corpses of dead animals around for long as they can impact water supply and even disease among humans.
We then regrouped for a quick snack/lunch of peri-peri chicken wings and it was off to a sunset cruise on the Great Zambezi River. Fanual met us at 3:45 and we were on the riverside in time for our 4:00 cruise. We meandered back and forth along the river, first heading towards Victoria Falls, getting to within 2 km of the treacherous drop. In the distance, we could see the "smoke that is thunder" and that was as far as we were going to go. We were glad our boat had plenty of gas. Heading back toward the African sunset, we stopped a couple times to observe a pod of hippos (in water, on land they are a "raft"). These natural herbivores actually cause more human deaths than any other animal in Africa. They like to charge at whatever is in their way; if that is a human, you better say your prayers.
Finally, we saw one of the most beautiful sunsets of our lifetimes. Pictures will never do justice, but we all got some great ones.
Signing off as we are about to enjoy our final dinner in Zimbabwe and, tomorrow, begin a two-flight, long journey to Amsterdam, our last stop before returning home. So, tomorrow night we'll be on an overnight flight and we'll catch up again on Thursday.
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