Wild Africa Epilogue: The Road Best Traveled

5 Dec
Joan Higbee and Darla Davis at Victoria Falls

Joan Higbee and Darla Davis at Victoria Falls

(Winthrop, Massachusetts, December 5, 2013) When are we going back? Where are we going next? These are questions we’ve asked ourselves many times since our Road Scholar Wild Africa Program. Something magical happened during our journeys through Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia – magic that touched all of us; magic we all want to recapture.

When are you coming back…for a walk along the river?

When are you coming back…for a walk along the river?

Part of the magic is no doubt Africa itself. The wild animals we saw daily, so much that we almost took them for granted. Sure, we thought, we’ll see a few dozen elephants, giraffes, and zebras tomorrow. Of course, those are monkeys scampering across the roofs of our cabins at night.

A well-kept Zambian home near the Zambezi River.

A well-kept Zambian home near the Zambezi River.

But the magic of a Road Scholar program goes beyond any single location. We were welcomed into the villages and homes of the people we met, but we’ve always been invited into people’s homes everywhere Road Scholar takes us. Our guides, and the organization’s reputation, ensure that.

Watch the Road Scholar Wild Africa Program in Action! Click on the link below:

Road Scholar YouTube: Wild Africa Video

When are you coming back…for our Road Scholar hospitality?

When are you coming back…for our Road Scholar hospitality?

We were out in the wilds of Africa every day, yet we always came home to accommodations that were way more comfortable than we thought we’d see in places called “camps.” Real Africa – wild animals, village life, and spectacular scenery – was right outside our doorsteps. But what doorsteps they were.

When are you coming back…to see good friends?

When are you coming back…to catch up with good friends?

And we’ve stayed in touch. Our group has its own Facebook page, where we share photos, stories, and memories, even two months after our program. Old friends became closer, strangers became new friends, and our friendships grew to include the schoolchildren we met. Beginning next year, they’ll study in classrooms renovated with our donations.

When are you coming back…to see how we're doing in school?

When are you coming back…to see how we’re doing in school?

We saw  lions and water buffalo. But Road Scholar could just as easily take us to  Costa Rica’s giant tortoises and tree frogs. We stayed in camps, but we could also sleep in a French Colonial hotel in Saigon, a Queen Mary stateroom, or a trailside lodge near Zion National Park.

And we’ll see each other again, either by design because we’ll plan future travels together, or by chance, since so many Road Scholars come back again and again for the magic we know we’ll find on every program. And when we’re not traveling, we’ll often ask the Road Scholar question: Where are we going next?

In many ways, the sun never sets on every Road Scholar adventure.

In many ways, the sun never sets on a Road Scholar adventure.

Continue the adventure of our Road Scholar Wild Africa program by reading Sally Hensel’s blog at:

http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/sallykhen/2/1380185035/tpod.html

Our Sunday Magazine Section

3 Nov

Photographs from a Memorable Journey through Zimbabwe and Zambia

Joyce Cymerman and Two Large Friends in South Luangwa National Park

Joyce Cymerman and Two Large Friends in South Luangwa National Park

(Winthrop, Massachusetts, November 3, 2013) There were no shortage of great moments during our Road Scholar Wild Africa Safari Program. Here are some pictures from a few of them.

A monkey watches us at Thorntree Lodge.

A monkey watches us at Thorntree Lodge.

It's hard not to smile like Dorothy McFadden-Parker on a South Luangwa Game Drive.

It’s hard not to smile like Dorothy McFadden-Parker on a South Luangwa Game Drive.

Jo Rekart knows you can never see too many elephants.

Jo Rekart knows you can never see too many elephants.

Just what are those Water Buffalo thinking?

What are these water buffalo thinking?

Darla Davis shows her trail cred at our game walk coffee break.

Darla Davis models a familiar tag at our game walk coffee break.

Richard Slusser and Neighbor at Mfuwe Lodge

Richard Slusser and a neighbor at Mfuwe Lodge

Lynne Hensel and Larry Kameya toast another spectacular African sunset.

Lynne Hensel and Larry Kameya toast another spectacular African sunset.

Joan Higbee enjoys a break from wildlife viewing at Victoria Falls.

Joan Higbee enjoys a break from wildlife viewing at Victoria Falls.

Ground Hornbills know how to strut across the bush.

Ground Hornbills demonstrate the proper way to strut across the African bush.

Sally Hensel and a view from the deck at Mfuwe Lodge.

Sally Hensel shares a view from the deck at Mfuwe Lodge.

Joyce Cymerman, Denise Slusser, and Richard Slusser put the fun back in flying.

Joyce Cymerman, Denise Slusser, and Richard Slusser put the fun back in flying.

Drummers herald our next meal at Mfuwe Lodge

Drummers call us to another great meal at Mfuwe Lodge.

Just how do you set the oven temperature in this thing?

Just how do you set the oven temperature in this thing?

Does this spotlight make me look fat?

Does this spotlight make me look fat?

Denise Slusser can't believe she's in a photo with rhinos.

Denise Slusser can’t believe she’s in a photo with rhinos.

Neither can Dorothy McFadden-Parker.

Neither can Dorothy McFadden-Parker.

This young lion's belly shows the effects of a recent meal.

This young lion’s belly shows the effects of a recent meal.

Pizza for lunch between game drives? Why not!?

Pizza for lunch between game drives? Why not!?

Program Leader Lisa Reed shows us the reason not to sit underneath a sausage tree.

Program Leader Lisa Reed shows us a good reason not to sit underneath a sausage tree.

Zambian schoolchildren on a field trip to Victoria Falls.

Zambian schoolchildren on a field trip to Victoria Falls.

A family of giraffes beats the afternoon heat in South Luangwa National Park.

A family of giraffes beats the afternoon heat in South Luangwa National Park.

The look on Jan Thornberg's face tells you all you need to know about our travels.

The look on Jan Thornberg’s face tells you all you need to know about our travels.

Cameron Kirkpatrick and his camera relax for a moment on the Zambezi River.

Cameron Kirkpatrick and his camera relax for a moment on the Zambezi River.

Traveling in style and comfort with Road Scholar.

Motoring in style and comfort with Road Scholar.

Thanks, everyone, for keeping my time on this end of the camera to a minimum.

Thanks, everyone, for keeping my time on this end of the camera to a minimum.

The African sun may never set in any of our minds.

The African sun may never set in any of our minds.

A Land of Bounty for All

24 Oct

The Zambezi and Luangwa River Valleys Draw All Species of Visitors

Sometimes, we didn’t visit the animals. Sometimes, they came to us.

Sometimes, we didn’t need to visit the animals. More than once, the animals came to us.

(Winthrop, October 24, 2013) Traveling great distances can be a common experience in Wild Africa. Transatlantic flights necessarily bookend our journeys to this trip of a lifetime. But, particularly in the dry season, many of the animals we see have walked many miles to get here, too.

Dorothy McFadden-Parker feels the magic of the Luangwa River’s waters.

Dorothy McFadden-Parker enjoys the Luangwa River’s magic.

The views from Africa’s river banks, and from our cruises on the rivers themselves, are spectacular. The Luangwa and Zambezi run strong all year, even when there’s no rain, sustaining life for humans and wildlife alike. We can imagine the joy of drinking from the Luangwa on a hot afternoon.

A hippo walks where he might normally swim in the Green Season.

A hippo walks where he might swim in the Green Season.

We rely on our imagination to think of what the land must be like when rivers run fast and deep. The Africans call it the “Green Season.” But dry riverbeds do serve as highways for the species we’ve come to see. Water may be scarce, but at least traveling to it is easier.

Video: Our journey through Wild Africa with Road Scholar 

Water is precious and scarce in the dry season.

Water is precious and scarce in the dry season.

It hadn’t rained for months prior to our arrival, and the locals had all made crucial seasonal adjustments. Many of the trees shed their leaves to reduce evaporation. Even the largest animals seek shade from the hot mid-day sun. And local farmers rely on irrigation to grow the crops they need to survive.

The beauty of Africa’s rivers can be indescribable.

The beauty of Africa’s rivers can be indescribable.

You can hear the distant roar of Victoria Falls, even when appreciating the quiet majesty of the Zambezi River on a windless afternoon.

The Extraordinary Personalities of Africa

23 Oct

An introduction to some of the unforgettable people we met in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

The line for lunch at Mfuwe Day Secondary School

The line for lunch at Mfuwe Day Secondary School

(Winthrop, Massachusetts, October 22, 2013) Everyone loves the idea of a safari. For many of us, it’s a lifelong dream come true. This post is a salute to the people who made it so infinitely enjoyable, either through their hard work guiding us along the way, or by simply inviting us into their lives for a brief moment.

Our chief guide, Lisa Reed, helping us wind down after another great day.

Our chief guide, Lisa Reed, helping us wind down after another great day.

Lisa’s knowledge of the land, its wildlife, and people – particularly children – is impressive. So is her ability to share it. We often didn’t know until later how skilled she is at managing on the fly, finding last-minute opportunities for adventure and making them happen.

You can’t say you saw the South Luangwa Valley without a morning nature walk with Peter Zulu.

You can’t say you saw the South Luangwa Valley without a morning nature walk with Peter Zulu.

Peter is not only a senior guide, he’s also Headman at nearby Mambwe Village. He’s a great host, taking visitors by jeep and on foot to discover wildlife and clues about their daily lives. When you meet Peter, don’t forget to ask him about dung beetles, or how elephants wear down trails to water.

Video: The people of  South Luangwa  are as curious about us as we are about them.

Patson Phiri and participant Ina Fernandez enjoy a laugh before our bush breakfast.

Patson Phiri and participant Ina Fernandez enjoy a laugh before our bush breakfast.

Patson Phiri is another senior guide based at Mfuwe Lodge in South Luangwa. He can offer compelling lessons from what seem like ordinary aspects of a walk in the bush. Animal tracks, fruits from nearby trees, insects, and birds as they fly by never cease to surprise him. And he never ceases to regale us with great stories.

Each product sold at Tribal Textiles is a hand-made work of art.

Each product at Tribal Textiles is a hand-made work of art.

Watching the workers at Tribal Textiles, we not only witness time-honored creativity and technique. We’re also seeing the growth of a new business, and maybe the early stages of a developing economy – one that’s committed to progress while preserving the best of established traditions.

The SEKA Theatre Group’s good-natured send-up of North Americans on Safari.

The SEKA Theatre Group’s good-natured send-up of North Americans on Safari.

Maybe the best thing about our African hosts is their sense of humor. One of the SEKA Group’s many productions includes a humorous look at travelers trying to get that perfect wildlife photo – like this well-framed shot of a kudu.

Africa After Dark

17 Oct

Spotlight on Wildlife in the South Luangwa Valley

Lionesses and their cubs devour a Cape Buffalo their pride killed earlier in the day.

Lionesses and their cubs devour a Cape Buffalo their pride killed earlier in the day.

(Winthrop, Massachusetts, October 17, 2013)  When the sun sets, Road Scholars watch the South Luangwa Valley comes alive with a different, more primal energy. Photogenic animals that seem to pose for the camera by day ignore us, and go about the real business of their lives. They eat, sleep, hunt, and hide until dawn.

Spotlights focus on the natural order of nighttime in the wild.

Spotlights focus on the natural order of nighttime in the wild.

Night game drives are a revelation. They show a world that doesn’t care if we’re there. We learn individual lessons – how lions eat, how hyenas move, the silence of elephants walking. But the larger truth is that, by night, we are irrelevant, and can only watch in awe.

The search for food can be a solitary journey.

The search for food can be a solitary journey.

Big cats rule the night. They move in stealthy silence. Baboons, hyenas, impalas, and birds know this, and  unite to stand guard. Their alarm calls fill the night with hoots, whistles, screeches, and even one that sounds like a loud neighbor yelling “bark” – trying to keep the hunter hungry.

Video: Two leopards discover another reason to love the African night.

If you were an African Hare, you’d be on guard at night, too.

If you were an African Hare, you’d be on guard at night, too.

If they were human, many animals might have a love-hate relationship with the night. It allows them to hide from sight, perhaps eluding predators. But sound and scent still give clues about where they are…clues that can quickly turn a small animal into a snack. This hare needs a good hiding place.

Hyenas travel in packs, but they often follow a lookout.

Hyenas travel in packs, but they often follow a lookout.

You can hear hyenas before seeing them. And they’re just as dangerous as the big cats. A single hyena may appear first, but if food is discovered, many others will soon join in, forming a formidable pack. On our night drive, a leopard found the same meal as the hyenas, but outnumbered, she could only watch and wait.

Vultures are the birds that greet the wild African dawn.

Vultures are the birds that greet the wild African dawn.

The next morning, after the lions moved on for water and rest, an even larger family descended on the Cape buffalo. And they worked fast. Thirty minutes after this picture was taken, only a skeleton remained. They hyenas would return to eat these bones later that night.

A Wild Africa Program Checklist

16 Oct

Eight Things to Make a Safari Complete

1. Go Wild!

Our successful search for the White Rhinos of Zambia

Our successful search for the White Rhinos of Zambia

(Winthrop, Massachusetts, October 16, 2013)  Every day on a Road Scholar program is full of activity. But even with a packed itinerary, surprises are always on the agenda. One afternoon, we were asked if we wanted to see a rhinoceros or two. You can imagine our enthusiasm, even if the rhinos seemed less than impressed.

2. Learn

Josephine Rekart reads 150-year old letters at the Livingstone Museum.

Josephine Rekart reads 150-year old letters at the Livingstone Museum.

Some lessons were from the distant past. “This is a record of  incidents which occurred…with people of the interior, in order to…reproduce the feelings which animated me in endeavouring to open up Africa to the sympathies and succor of Christians in more favoured lands.” - David Livingstone, 1st January, 1854.

3. Teach

Denise Slusser’s impromptu dance class at Mambwe Village.

Denise Slusser’s impromptu yoga class at Mambwe Village.

Many of our best moments were spent with the people we met on our daily adventures. Conversations taught us much about their lives, but a few of us went the extra mile to create more active communication. Whenever we did, there was never a shortage of willing participants.

4. Laugh

Jan Thornberg and Abraham at the helm on our sunset cruise.

Jan Thornberg and Abraham at the helm on our sunset cruise.

Sundowners, that great tradition of ending each day with a toast to everyone and everything, gave us some of our best chances to relax and reflect. Some sundowners were more ornate than others, but even the most casual ones included the key elements of vistas, friendship, and fun.

5. Dance

Dorothy McFadden-Parker cuts a mean chitanga at Mambwe Village.

Dorothy McFadden-Parker cuts a mean chitanga in Mambwe.

One of the many great guides at Mfuwe Lodge in the South Luangwa Valley is Peter Zulu – also the Headman at nearby Mambwe Village. He brought us there one afternoon for a local celebration of international friendship. The villagers got the party started, but it wasn’t long before everyone joined in the fun.

6. Jump!

Paul Mason adds a punctuation mark to his African adventure.

Paul Mason adds a punctuation mark to his African adventure.

Even with the action-packed daily itineraries put together by program leader Lisa Reed, there was still free time for us to select adventures of our own. Riding a zip line across one of Victoria Falls’ gorges may or may not be your choice, but the views – and the ride – are breathtaking.

7. Enjoy

Larry Kameya takes in the views at Victoria Falls.

Larry Kameya takes in the views at Victoria Falls.

Almost lost in the excitement of our other activities was a visit to the world’s largest waterfall, one of David Livingstone’s greatest discoveries. The roar of its mighty waters could be heard for miles around. But its scenic beauty inspired quiet contemplation of nature’s wonders, beyond the people and wildlife of Africa.

8. Remember

One of the most memorable sunsets of all time.

One of the most spectacular sunsets of our lives.

You Ought to be in Pictures

11 Oct

Road Scholars learn that great photographs are always just around the corner.

Elephant Sunset, Zimbabwe, September 19, 2013

Elephant Sunset, Zimbabwe, September 19, 2013.

(Winthrop, Massachusetts, October 11, 2013) Inspired by an unlimited supply of once-in-a-lifetime views, Road Scholar participants from all over North America recently gathered along the banks of – and sometimes on – the Zambezi River and its tributaries in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Equipped with various cameras and lenses, they sought the right combination of wildlife, scenery, and spontaneity that define the perfect picture.

A young giraffe obliges with a pose.

A young giraffe obliges with a pose.

There was no shortage of subject matter in any of the national parks we visited. All species of four-legged creatures, birds, and even fearsome crocodiles, lizards, and snakes took turns appearing in our viewfinders. Sometimes it felt like there were just too many great shots.

Barbara Alm shares photo tips with a friend.

Barbara Alm shares photo tips with a friend.

In fact, we photographers had more to consider than Africa’s many animals. Every day, we visited with local residents, young and old, to share their experiences and create new ones along the way. We all spoke English, but even better, we also shared the common languages of curiosity, friendship, and fun.

Quick! The light is fantastic!

Quick! The light is fantastic!

Don’t let images like this one fool you. Traveling from sunrise to sunset and beyond by boat, jeep, and on foot in search of that perfect photograph is hard work. And the animals never seem to cooperate in providing that up-close and personal perspective a great picture requires.

A big lunchtime distraction, September 23, 2013.

A big lunchtime distraction, September 23, 2013.

Except when they do. One day, we didn’t need to travel at all to find a willing subject. At Mfuwe Lodge on the South Luangwa River, George the Elephant came to mug for our cameras, striding the sidewalks and munching on flowers that had fallen onto the main building’s thatched roof.

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Road Scholar

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Road Scholar.

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