Water, one of our planet’s most essential and inspiring elements has drawn us into nature and to each other for millennia. It is, in fact, what draws many first time visitors to Zimbabwe as they arrive to gaze upon the iconic, world famous Victoria Falls.
Here, countless curtains of cascades tumble down precipitous gorges into churning pools of rainbow laden mist. Standing in awe of this raw spectacle of nature, powerful drenching spray soaks not only you, but showers the parched, arid landscape; transforming it into a lush rainforest.
Your own adrenaline will start to flow almost as strongly as the falls themselves when you bungee jump or zip-line against this pulsating, majestic backdrop.
It is not only the sheer power of water here that impresses you, but also its tranquility. Few moments are more peaceful than floating serenely along the Zambezi River. Like silent, ancient statues crocodiles line the river banks. Birds call and gather at the shoreline, or perhaps even land upon a yawning hippo. An elephant saunters up for an end of the day drink, your eyes meet, sipping your chosen sunset beverages together.
A warm breeze gently stirs, and for a moment as the sun sinks steadily towards the horizon, the river is painted in fiery gold, fusing two primordial elements together. As the first stars glitter above, the last of your sundowner disappears. Where else in the world can you experience such liquid power and peacefulness all in the same afternoon?
However, you only have to travel a few hours away from Victoria Falls for water to tell a very different story.
Here in Hwange National Park, in the height of the dry season, temperatures soar into the roiling 40’s and water is rare. Small pans or waterholes are fed by strained pumps working laboriously to bring life giving liquid to the surface. So precious is this resource, that elephants will still gather in large numbers to drink and bathe in a slurry of mostly mud.
Here, with its extreme scarcity, water is a magnet - attracting an abundance and diversity of wildlife not seen at any other time of the year. Herds of zebra, kudu, sable antelope, wildebeest and more arrive in an endless thirsty parade to these cherished shrinking oases. A seemingly never ending herd of Cape buffalo arrives to drink and wallow. Elephants dominate, excluding a herd of giraffe who patiently await their turn before finally moving on in resignation to another waterhole, many miles away.
Heading out in a safari vehicle and searching for game isn’t required in these conditions, your safari lodge deck overlooking the waterhole is the place to view uninterrupted animal action and interaction. Even after sunset, the elephants continue rumbling and trumpeting throughout the night, intensely competing with each other.
Water has a cycle, and it plays a pivotal role in the cycle of life during the peak of the dry season. Safari goers are not the only ones drawn to this dwindling resource.
Predators too arrive to take advantage of the endless stream of wildlife trickling in to drink. After a phenomenal hazy violet sunset over the ilala palms, two lionesses slink undetected across the golden plains.
A herd of elephants and their young, vulnerable calves pass dangerously close. Tension builds, then suddenly the drama shifts as two cheetah cautiously approach. The lionesses shift their focus, coordinating their attack on these gorgeous spotted felines, who narrowly escape in the last moment. Although we did not witness a kill, we are keenly aware of how the circle of life is played out against similar backdrops all throughout the park each and every night.
After witnessing so much beauty, power and drama in just five short days, like water, you are left to reflect upon all the treasured moments you discovered in the brief time spent in such an incredible place.
There is so much to absorb from the landscape, the wildlife and everyone you meet along the way. These are the memories that endure throughout your lifetime. Yet this is just a tiny drop of what Zimbabwe has to offer. We can’t wait to return.
About the Author:
Kimberly Krusell is the Founder and Executive Travel Advisor for Honu Travel, LLC which focuses on creating and promoting exceptional wildlife encounters in breathtaking settings all around our planet. She visited Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park in November 2016, hosted by Debbie Ewing of Experience Africa Safaris.