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Zimbabwe stole

our hearts

· Travel

From Cape Town and South Africa we headed back north again to the Victoria Falls area, but this time on the Zimbabwe side of the Zambezi River, as opposed to Zambia. Somehow, our experiences maintained the extraordinary level of amazement that almost everything preceding had given us.
In fact, it got even better.
When you finish a sunset river cruise and come back to camp for your dinner, only to be delayed because an entire family of elephants (above) have decided to wander around the restaurant area, you realize that life is good.
The complete silence of our group while this unfolded over about 20 minutes spoke volumes for just how affecting and wondrous this was.
Here's this weeks Top 5 from our time in Zimbabwe.

Top 5 - Zimbabwe

1. Victoria Falls (above)
While the Zambian side of the Falls is often dried up at this time of year, which is why we didn't visit from that side, the Zimbabwe side still has an incredibly strong flow. To give you an idea of the scale, Victoria Falls is the world’s largest sheet of falling water and is practically double the height of Niagara Falls and almost half a mile wider.

2. Recycling (above and below)
Our visit to Victoria Falls Recycling showed us just how much difference a small contribution from tourism can make. Coordinator Charlene Hewitt (pictured below left) has created a movement that now includes recycling on site all glass collected, packaging paper and cardboard to be transported and sold, and they are building walls with filled plastic bottles in place of bricks. 24 tonnes of recycling waste was collected and baled in the first 9 months of operation and they continue to expand rapidly. J5Travel loves seeing projects like this on the ground, and discovering how much passion there is in places you might not expect to find it, helping the local community create jobs and business skills.

3. Camp Hwange
With just 8 chalets, Camp Hwange gave us the most real bush experience of all our safari lodges. One of the big surprises was being able to walk a good distance from our vehicles (above left), albeit led by an armed guide. This was exciting, to say the least, as we skirted long grasses where we had seen the lioness (above right) hide the previous evening. She had passed our vehicle just a few feet away, and took no notice of us at all. Hwange National Park is stunning and there is almost no-one there. It's the size of Connecticut and there are only around 200 rooms in the whole Park. Sunsets (below), as almost everywhere we visited on our trip, were exquisite.

4. The Hide
A little more upscale than Camp Hwange, The Hide (below) was the perfect finish to the Zimbabwe section of our trip. Also located within Hwange National Park, we had yet more lucky viewings of lions, zebra, cheetah, giraffe, amazing bird life, and a super close and rare encounter with a leopard (above).

5. The Camera
While I stuck with my Google Pixel 4 for photos, Helen borrowed our daughter's Nikon for the first time, and all the wildlife close-ups I've posted have been her work. It was pretty essential that at least one of us had a great zoom lens in order to capture the inordinate amount of drama we saw. For example, the monitor lizard devouring a frog (above). Helen was also lucky enough to enjoy a 2-hour on site lesson from Neil (below), an incredible wildlife photographer and documentary maker. This whole trip has felt like a total privilege every step of the way.

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