An Unforgettable African Experience

Author: Lauren Rae Desiderio

As cliché as it sounds, my recent trip to Africa was a life-changing experience. From witnessing the majestic wildlife of the African bush to engaging with the community in a Zambian village, I left with memories that will last a lifetime. I’m already planning my return! Huge thanks to Ryan Johnston and Wandering Thru for curating an incredible trip that exceeded all expectations.

Day 1: Arrival at Klaserie Lodge Nzumba

Our adventure began at the Klaserie Lodge Nzumba. Just on the drive in, we were able to see a rhino which was so exciting and were greeted by the most incredible staff. After settling in, we went on an afternoon drive where we were thrilled to see giraffes, elephants, and a ton of impalas. There was also a parade of about 30 elephants congregating at the lodge’s watering hole when we got back that night. 

Day 2: Wild Encounters

Giraffe on safari with Wandering Thru.

This was our first morning drive and we saw some wild dogs which are usually rare to see. They were relaxing together after a morning kill. On top of that, we got to see a large herd of 300 plus buffalo.

On the afternoon drive, I formed a new found love for hyenas. I still think the female hyenas are much cuter than the males but that’s just my opinion. We went to a hyena den where we spotted three adorable cubs playing and saw a separate hyena relaxing by a watering hole. We still had some time and got to see some zebras and a protective elephant mother walking with her baby underneath of her. Our day ended with a surprise dinner by the fire, adding a perfect touch to the evening.

Day 3: Tracking Lions

This day was one of my favorites (I may be saying that too much because I loved it all). In the morning, we got to watch Ryan and Thomas track a lion, leading us right to him and several other lionesses. This was what I was most excited to see so it was absolutely incredible. We were just in the middle of these beautiful creatures while they were walking around. 

We didn’t think it could get any better but our afternoon drive treated us to an amazing lioness encounter with two different tribes. We saw three from the River Pride and one from a neighbouring pride. Once they spotted each other, there was a lot of roaring we got to witness but eventually they were able to relax near each other. The fact that we could sit with them at sunset is one of my favorite moments. 

Day 4: The Super Six

At this point, we only needed to see a leopard to have viewed the “Super Six”! This morning drive was the most rewarding since we got to see the tracking process from start to finish. Ryan tracked a leopard’s prints and its kill for an hour or two and by the end, he found them. The young leopard was so beautiful and was really trying to hide its kill from the others. I couldn’t believe how much he could camouflage in his surroundings. After that amazing feat, we were surprised with breakfast in the middle of the bush to celebrate! 

The afternoon drive was even more spectacular, with sightings of a leopard and her two playful cubs. The two cubs had so much energy and were running all around, I couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Later on, we went back to the area where we saw the leopard that morning. Ryan thought we might be able to see the leopard hoist his kill up the tree and he was absolutely right. The strength of the leopard was mind blowing. After we witnessed that, on top of everything else, my mom started calling him “Rockstar Ryan”! 

Day 5: Hippos and Helicopters

Helicopter trip with Wandering Thru on safari.

On our morning drive, we drove out to the river where we enjoyed breakfast and coffee with a group of about 25 hippos. Once we got back, we headed out for our next adventure which was a breathtaking helicopter ride over Kruger National Park and through Blyde River Canyon (highly recommend doing this). 

Our final afternoon drive included a visit to the hyena den with the cubs and another beautiful African sunset. They had a special dinner planned for us that we got to enjoy with the lodge’s amazing management team (there were even tears since I had to leave). 

Day 6: Welcome to Zambia

After our incredible safari experience, we headed to Zambia to see Victoria Falls but got so much more out of it. We stayed at Sanctuary Sussi and Chuma on the Zambezi River. Surrounded by so many monkeys and baboons, which I loved, we spent a relaxing evening by the bonfire, preparing for the days ahead.

Day 7: A Day in Nakatindi Village

This day stole my heart. We visited the Nakatindi Village and experienced the warmth of the community. We were able to visit the Sishemo Bead Studio where they create beautiful jewelry out of all different types of bottles and the Chipego Bike Shop who’s teamed up with Working Bikes Charity to refurbish and provide bikes to the village. One little girl clung to my side the entire visit, making it an even more personal and touching experience for me. I instantly asked how I could help the village and kids so the staff showed me this site to learn more about their projects (https://sanctuaryretreats.com/philanthropy/zambia-philanthropy/). 

Afterwards, we embarked on a walking tour with rhinos where we were able to get incredibly close to these magnificent animals. There was a group of 6 rhinos and with the help of some park rangers, we were able to get within 20 feet of them (much closer than expected so we took plenty of pics)! We ended the day with a peaceful sunset cruise and during one of our stops, we got up close and personal with an elephant bathing by the water. We also had a chance to see a number of African bird species. 

Day 8: Victoria Falls and a Leap of Faith

Victoria Falls on safari with Wandering Thru

Our early morning visit to Victoria Falls was perfect, with fewer crowds and the brightest rainbow (thanks to Ryan for knowing this would be the case). After we saw the beauty of the falls, we did some shopping at the market that was close by. After that, I decided to take the plunge and bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge (it was actually scarier than when I skydived but was absolutely worth it). The staff may have mentioned that I scared the fish away with my scream. 

When we returned to the resort, we enjoyed a delicious lunch by the river, followed by much needed massages. For our last night, we went on a sunset cruise happy hour and finished the night by the fire pit while admiring the starlit sky. Apparently the stars are another area of Ryan’s expertise so we certainly learned a lot! 

Leaving was tough, but this trip exceeded every expectation. I’m eager to return and further engage with the bush and villages in Zambia. Endless thanks to Ryan and Wandering Thru for an unforgettable trip! 

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