During our two weeks in Zimbabwe (“Zim” as the locals call it), I fell in love with the country and its people. While the political situation is terrible, it is no worse there than in many surrounding countries AND, more importantly, one man and his politics have made the world look down on a beautiful country full of wonderful people and sights. I hope over the next few weeks as I share highlights of what to do in Zimbabwe, I can share my newfound love for the country and inspire you to travel there – to support Zimbabweans and the natural wonders the region has to offer.
First up was our experience at Wild is Life – a wildlife sanctuary in Harare with an unparalleled experience in feeding and learning about animals amidst wining and dining in true style…
The Wild is Life sanctuary is home (temporary and permanent) to rescued, orphaned, or specially protected animals. If at all possible, the sanctuary works to return animals to the wild. Those who would not survive are offered a permanent home at the sanctuary with phenomenal care. During your stay, you’ll meet each of the animals (by name), learn their stories, and get an up close encounter with some big personalities.
After introductions, you’re off to feed the giraffes. And these ladies and gents are hungry. Get in on the action of holding their (huge) bottle of milk. They drink it fast, so get in there quickly. Afterwards, grab a limb and hold on tight as the giraffes tug all the leaves off with determination!! (see below for what happened with one giraffe and me) Though hungry, these giraffes are very sweet. You can give them a little scratch while they enjoy their afternoon snack!
As we fed the giraffes, the cuddly wildebeest (watch out for her horns), impala, kudu, and sable wandered around the backround. As you can see, you’ll leave Africa well versed in a few types of antelope!
Then head to the tent for afternoon tea and coffee. Watch the game graze in the background as you sip on your beverage of choice and nibble on tasty morsels. We enjoyed carrot cake, a corn biscuit with berries and creme, and a brownie! Oh, and I spotted the cookie jar, so I nibbled on one of those too. What can I say? I like afternoon coffee time!
Isn’t this so fun? I was torn between sitting and enjoying the great offerings and wandering around to watch the game. We visited Wild is Life on one of our first days in Zim, so this was really our first introduction to safari/game life in Africa.
If you’re wondering how to get me out of my seat in an instant though… elephants. Baby elephants! I did a project on elephants in elementary school and have loved them since then. And who can resist baby elephants? They’re just the cutest. The “ellies” at Wild is Life will all hopefully be returned to the wild one day, so you aren’t allowed to touch them. They need to learn that not all humans are allies (unfortunately). The guides will also introduce you to each elephant. You’ll learn about their personalities, why they’re at Wild is Life, and their relationships with one another. At six years old, these elephants are still young. Elephants continue to grow until they are about 45 years old!
Pretty stinkin adorable, right?? I could have watched the elephants for hours on end. They’re such majestic animals and they are just so cute. One of the elephants lost a part her lip at the end of her trunk (likely due to a lion attack), which they use to get food into their mouths. To compensate, she uses her foot to push the food into her trunk and feed herself. All the animals are very adaptive to their circumstances and while the experience of a lion attack is terrible, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of their lives!
I couldn’t handle the cuteness of this one. She put on a show for everyone to see!
Next you’ll wander over to the lions for feeding time. If you think you get hangry, you should see these guys, walking and growling loudly until they were fed! Trying to mimic life in the wild, the sanctuary feeds the lions horse meat (most similar to zebra). They work with a local veterinarian to get the meat from horses that have been brought in because they are too old or unable to work. When the sanctuary is unable to get the meat, they feed the lions what they can get, but they don’t like it as well and let them know! The sanctuary works with SPCA and many local organizations to save animals and get necessities for their animals.
Each of the lions has a story. You’ll see a number of lions at the conservancy, each with their own personality and story to tell.
This cutie is Marimba the pangolin. Pangolins are anteaters and, sadly, are hunted ravenously for their meat and scales. Because they are quiet, docile animals, they have no defense against hunters. They can’t run and they can’t make noise. Because these guys are nocturnal and so quiet, we hear so little of their plight. On a really happy note, Marimba and her two handlers are the closest of friends. She eats only ants. After about ten minutes of attack, ant hills start to release a poison, so pangolins have to move on. Marimba’s handlers carry her from ant hill to ant hill for hours and hours each day to get enough food. She rides around in a backpack, all curled up with her head sticking out because she likes to know what’s going on. When we met marimba, she was all over her handler, wrapping her tail around his arm, letting him hold her like a baby, and crawling around his neck! All the handlers love the animals so much and it’s easy to see the care and bond between the humans and animals.
After meeting most of the crew, you’ll head back to the tents for champagne and canapés. I am not kidding you, the food is fantastic! We enjoyed spinach puffed pastries, chicken ‘crepe’ bites, smoked salmon bites, and so much more. Enjoy the food and drink as the sun goes down…
Watch out, however. The game are still grazing nearby. I headed over to nab a photo with this cute giraffe in the background. He came closer, so I let him smell me and then went to pet his chin…
Only to have him try to nab my champagne right out of my glass! I had many amazing moments during our trip, but having a giraffe try to get my champagne is the best conversation starter to say the least! Thankfully I pulled the glass away before he got any, but I couldn’t stop laughing!! What an experience!
If you’re still wondering what to do in Zimbabwe or what to do in Harare, Wild is Life is at the top of my list! It’s an afternoon you’ll never forget and I really hope I can go back again! When we were on safari, I felt I understood the animals so much more because of the few hours we spent at the sanctuary!
Of course you can still help out without visiting the sanctuary. Donate online here.