By Linda Johansen


Linda Johansen of Solvang and 10 other adventurous travelers explored South Africa, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and Botswana from Oct. 9 through Oct. 24.

Surviving the long flights proved to be almost as daunting as any encounter with a wild animal. The travel time alone is almost 35 hours when you add in transportation to the airport, flights with connecting times, and transfers to the hotels. But our group all agreed that the trip was well worth all the travel inconvenience.

africa trip

The travel group saw many native species, such as lions, throughout the trip.

Highlights of the trip were Cape Town with a gondola ride up to Table Mountain in Stellenbosch, which is the wine region of South Africa, and the Devon Valley Hotel in the vineyards.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Entabeni Conservancy Private Game Reserve and the Hanglip Mountain Lodge where we each had our own bungalow complete with mosquito netting draped around our four poster beds and the watering hole directly in front of our units so game viewing was readily available.

In the evening a parade of elephants moved into our compound and we were not allowed to leave our bungalows until they gave the all-clear call in the morning.

In Botswana we experienced land and water safaris in Chobe National Park Game Reserve and enjoyed our stay at the Chobe Marina Lodge right on the river. We all almost blew over at the Cape of Good Hope. Victoria Falls, one of the original wonders of the world, was breathtakingly beautiful, and our visit to a native tribe’s village in Zimbabwe was extremely interesting.

We enjoyed seven game drives in 4×4 vehicles, seeing the most incredible wildlife up close and personal. Small herds of elephants passed within feet of our vehicles as did rhino, lions and cheetahs. We also enjoyed two cruise safaris along the Zambezi River, where we had close encounters with crocodile, hippos, elephants and some beautiful birds.

African crocodiles have a sensory cell that has evolved to cover their entire bodies. It will identify any movement in the water, so we were told note to move if we fell off the boat. Between the hippos, crocodile, snakes and other animals, I don’t think we would have had a chance to make it to shore regardless.

Many of us were lucky enough to see the “big five,” which includes an African elephant, a cape buffalo, rhino, a lion and the elusive leopard. Several of us witnessed a female leopard feeding on an antelope that she had pulled up into a tree for safe keeping.

We were all lucky enough to see the black and white rhino, which are distinguished by the shape of their heads and mouths, and who are illegally poached for their horns. Poachers are killing the elephants as well for their tusks and take no mercy as they poison entire watering holes. The African government has a shoot-to-kill policy for poachers, and those that are incarcerated serve up to 50 years or more. It is incredible to think that anyone would kill or harm any of these magnificent animals. We all enjoyed an elephant reserve where we got to love on these gentle giants, and a few of us went on an elephant safari.

Several of us zip-lined over the Zambezi River, which was incredible. The canyons are much like our Grand Canyon and home to Victoria Falls and a series of other falls. We walked along the river and saw several of the beautiful falls with multiple rainbows. Even though this is the dry season and the water was low, the falls were very impressive. Five of us went for a thrilling helicopter ride over the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls.

We enjoyed the local cuisine, especially the ethnic dishes, and we voted the wart hog as our favorite meat dish. The crispy long worms, not so much, but several of us ate them and received a “worm eating” certificate. Some of us loved the “Pop,” as the natives called it, which is white ground corn meal and a staple food for locals. Pop is served with many different sauces that you would pour over it for additional flavoring.

We enjoyed several barbecues as well as traditional dancers and drummers, and we all had African drum lessons one night.

Africa is magical in so many ways, and I can’t wait to return to visit the people and enjoy the mesmerizing wildlife again.

Trips in 2019 will be Japan in March, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in June, and Croatia in October. For more information, call me at 805-686-1644 or email me at