After having a great time travelling with university pals, the second biggest want from my Africa trip was to get in some incredible animal encounters.
Luckily, they were many to be had and here are some of the best:
Wild is Life, Harare
Wild is Life is a family owned animal sanctuary on the outskirts of the city. It is home to rescued giraffes, baby elephants, ostrich, buffalo, lions, a hyena and an incredibly rare pangolin. The animals all have different stories for how they ended up here, from being trafficked, to being sold illegally as pets, to losing their parents to poaching at a young age. The best thing is the huge grounds and massive open space they have to move around in – the lions do have big pens, but all the grass eaters are in together. The second best thing is the amazing food and amount of drink on offer for visitors. Feeding the giraffes and seeing the baby elephants up close, in their huge grounds, over afternoon tea (or a few gin and tonics) is a beautiful experience.
Imire Game Park, Zimbabwe
A two-hour drive from Harare, is Imire Game Park, a private reserve set up in 1952 by the Travers family. The reserve has some huge tusker elephants, wildebeest, buffalo, impala, zebra and giraffe but what most people come for is a glimpse of their rare black and white rhinos. After breakfast teas, coffees and pastries during the registration at their guest lodge, guests board the open safari vehicles and drive around the park for 2-3 hours spotting all the wildlife and hearing about the drastic conservation measures being taken to stop illegal poaching of the rhinos and elephants in this park. Finishing off the trip we stopped by the lake to have a delicious (and huge!) lunch and some ciders with the rhinos. A really wonderful day.
Chobe National Park, Botswana
Chobe is home to Africa’s largest elephant population and comprises more than 10,000km2 of land, covering different environments – forests, rivers and wetlands. Our first trip was on the river for a wildlife cruise, and the views from the river did not disappoint. Fish-eagles, water-buffalo, hippos, and crocs were our early highlights, only to be topped by our driver expertly spotting a pride of lions under a tree keeping a watching eye on grazing gazelle. After lunch, we took the car out to discover the park by land and were amazed and thrilled to see hundreds of elephants frolicking in the mud and drinking at the waterhole, as well as warthog, gazelle and more giraffe.