By Eva Buzo
I turned around to find a white haired man shaking a toy lion at me.
“Now when you go home you can tell everyone that you saw a lion on safari,” he broke out in the raspy laugh of a life-long smoker.
I gave him a courtesy laugh as we walked down the jetty to the small, aluminum dingy with a canopy that would take us on our safari river cruise.
A friendly Zambian in a safari suit greeted us as we climbed aboard.
“I will be your guide, captain and bartender for your cruise down the great Zambezi. Anyone for a gin and tonic?” He flashed us a warm, cheeky grin as he opened a well-stocked esky.
“What a delight! Hit me up, captain,” I declared.
“One for me too,” added my partner-in-crime-and-travel, Craig.
Our captain-slash-bartender dispensed drinks to the three other passengers and we raised our glasses in the air-
“Zambezi!” And off we chugged.
“Now, the Zambezi runs between Zimbabwe and Zambia and feeds into the great Victoria Falls. We’ll see hippos, crocodiles, lots of birds, you may even see an elephant.”
“Elephants!?” I turned to Craig with wide eyes.
“I’m going to see elephants?!” Call it an innocent fetish, if you will, but I inherited an elephant-themed obsession from my Grandmother. She loved them, their elegance, strength and the quiet dignity that made them the real king of the safari plains. Through the process of grandma-granddaughter osmosis I, too, had adopted the fascination.
“I can’t promise it, they usually cross over to Zimbabwe in the morning, but we might get lucky.”
“Do the elephants need passports?” The raspy American asked, breaking out in laughter before the end of his sentence.
“We’re going to see elephants, I can feel it!” I told Craig confidently.
The Zambezi is much like the local pub for the animals who call Livingstone and its surrounding areas home. In the afternoon, after a long day grazing about in the sun, it’s where everyone heads to chill out by the cool water.
The hippos stood almost completely submerged with their eyes poking out ever-so-slightly above the surface; crocodiles lazed on the sand; other lizard-type reptiles scurried about making my skin crawl; and colourfully-crested birds put themselves proudly on display as we sailed past.
“And now if you look to your left, you’ll see an elephant.”
I may have had a stroke, or at least a minor aneurism, the moment I turned around and found myself face-to-face with a gigantic, grey bull munching away on the trees, unphased by his audience taking so much delight from his dinnertime ritual. He was magnificent, moving his trunk with the grace of a conductor’s wand to strip the leaves off the tree and deliver it to his mouth.
“It’s not common for the males to be away from the heard, so this is odd,” our guide told us. The most logical explanation to me was he’d had a fight with his wife and she had sent him for a time out. Maybe I’ve seen The Lion King too many times, but I strongly suspect that all creatures great and small have anthropomorphic lives behind our backs.
For rest of the trip I buzzing, and even got to see another two other elephants hanging out together on the sand. We had our snacks on an island, another G and T, and headed back along the river.
The other passengers were dropped off first at their hotels, so for a few minutes Craig and I were able to enjoy a private cruise as the sun made its final curtain call over the still Zambezi.
Delightful. Delicious. D’lovely.
Photos by Craig Edmondson