Victoria Falls Weekend: Wharthog groundskeepers and night safari

Victoria Falls is an adventure sports center specializing in death-taunting fun. I have never gone bungee jumping primarily because I do not want my epitaph to be something like “American tourist jumps to his death for fun.”

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Following my visit to the falls on the Zimbabwe side I strolled the manicured grounds of the Edwardian-era Victoria Falls Hotel, admiring the diligent warthog groundskeepers.

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On to the main drag. The town goes at a slow pace, ‘dead slow.’

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Dining options are limited, you have the Pizza Inn, Chicken Inn and Creamy Inn.

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Just kidding, there are more options, including the tastelessly branded IN-DA-BELLY Bar & Cafe.

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I visited a local tour agent inquiring about activities for the next day. I chose a Chobe National Park tour in Botswana and then lighted upon a night safari. The agent called around, no agency had any customers so I had to pay for a vehicle of my own. An hour later up rolled a SUV with guide Itela Sakanji and we set off into the darkness.

One little hitch: the spotlights were not working. Itela tried to fix them on the way. He called a fried who pulled up and also tried to fix them. Then Itela attempted to spot wildlife by ordering the driver to turn the SUV and shine its headlights. Not a success.

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Back to town we went and pulled into Bongoland. Out came a man who does the maintenance on tourist helicopters. He jerry-rigged the lights and we were a go.

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Now quite cold, huddled under blankets, we cruised the parks and saw nocturnal beasts large and small.

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My work phone was roaming and it was a delight to receive a call from a colleague who has never had a passport. “Do you have a minute? Where are you?”

“Oh, on night safari in Zimbabwe.”

Itela Sakaji is freelance guide specializing in cycle tours villages, bird watching, and walking safaris. He can be contacted at his facebook page or email: itela.sakanji -at- yahoo.com.

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  • Funny about your coworker. I’m not as open about my travels – I never mention it unless it’s a big trip that I’m taking 2 weeks off for. Other than that, no one needs to know that I just spent the weekend in Mexico or Key West.

    I assume you were on a work trip in South Africa?

  • john

    I am the same as Kay, I dislike to talk about my travels. Part of it is that other family members have had problems at work talking about travels because it made people jealous and caused problems….

    Anyway, I am probably going on a similar trip soon. How much was your private night Safari?
    How much for the Chobe trip?
    Thanks!

  • @Kay, @john – you have reminded me that I have been meaning to do a post on talking about business travel at the office. It is indeed a minefield. I generally downplay my travel as well. I am in an international business unit where a number of people travel so I am not so exceptional on the business aspect, but I do keep my side trips on weekends limited to those who need to know and of course handle those costs myself. The colleague referenced I have worked with for years at two jobs and we have a strong relationship, my travel and his non-travel is an ongoing source of banter.

    At my old job people were curious when I would show up Monday with rings under my eyes, current job nobody pays much attention.

    I do like to have a bit of an air of mystery, I love a line from the BBC Jeremy Brett adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” though not in the original story, is: “Tell them I have disappeared without a trace.”

    @john – regarding the prices, I will check tonight if I kept the receipt.

  • @RTT – Sounds like you have the added problem of going on mini-vacations in the middle of your works trips. Totally legit in my opinion, but you want to keep that quiet. My issue is more that I’m on the junior end of my team, and go on some of the fanciest vacations. I don’t want to have conversations with people about my ability to afford the trips or about my frequent credit cards churns.

  • @Kay – absolutely agree, when I overhear colleagues talking about their mileage and such I just keep my head down and resist the urge to lecture!

  • john

    One of my family members had a particularly bad experience with this. They work at a place where very few people travel (no business travel and very little leisure travel). My family member liked to talk about trips and show pictures. Now these were always simple trips to “exotic” third world countries. Nothing fancy but apparently it made people jealous. One of these recent recession years, my family member did not get a raise. When they inquired, the boss said that someone else was given the raise and that “it was small, not enough for a trip to XXX”.

    The problem is that most people seem to equate travel with living in the lap of luxury and I am a ‘$50! Damn thats an expensive hotel’ type of guy….

  • @john – I found the receipts. The night safari was US$100 for 3 hours for a vehicle that would have sat several. Chobe was US$170 per person for full-day trip, half-day on boat, half-day on SUV, the group was originally five but two were no-shows.

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  • john

    Thanks. bit more than I thought it would be.