Back in 2000 I had plenty of money, being a bachelor who spent most of his free time camping and wandering around the desert. The seeds were sown the previous year when 2 friends and I made a trip down to Belize for a couple of weeks. Both friends were avid bird watchers with one being a herpetologist. We wandered around the country looking for cool birds, reptiles, and mammals. This was the 1st time I ever did a natural history type of tourism and I loved it! I learned so much about the animal life of the tropics. Of course the furry side of me was bubbling just below the surface so anything animal-related was just wonderful to me. It was during this trip that I mentioned it would be great to go to Africa to do the same type of trip. My herpetologist friend immediately backed away. Africa was too scary for him. My other friend, however, really liked the idea. I decided to get the ball rolling.
The 1st question was where to go? Africa is a big continent. Where would we get the most fur for our buck while not getting killed? The usual answer was Kenya and Tanzania. I found a travel agent that specialized in Africa and asked her opinion. She told me that those 2 countries were falling out of favor for tourists. It had become too commercial and the governments were no longer the most stable. The new "hot" destination was Botswana. I did some research and found out that the country WAS doing quite well outside of a rampant AIDS epidemic. The national parks seemed pretty cool in terms of animal watching, and there were many types of tours. You could go full-out luxury or budget hostels. One that intrigued me combined camping with modest luxury. Another thing I kept reading was a comparison to the parks in Botswana and Zimbabwe with South Luangwa National Park. Where was this place? It sounded like it was just teeming with wildlife. A little research revealed that it was in neighboring Zambia. Ooooo! It's so close! Let's add that as well!
Traveling in Africa can be a real chore. Some flights only depart a few times a week. Airlines are constantly coming and going. Would I be able to swing a trip to Zambia? Well, the travel agent made it work for me! In addition to a couple of weeks in Botswana, we would spend a week in Zambia. This turned out to be a wonderful addition. I'll write more about the country when I post pics, but I will say that it was one of the few times in my life where I felt that I got in on the ground floor of a good thing. When we got there we were some of the very few Americans that traveled there. There were British tourists everywhere, but no Yanks. We were asked several times how we even heard about the country. Americans were just not found there very often. This was just perfect in our book.
And so the stage was set. We would fly non-stop from Atlanta to Johannesburg. We would then catch a flight to Lusaka, Zambia. Spend several days at S Luangwa National Park, staying at the only lodge inside the park, fly back to Lusaka, catch a flight to Botswana, and then join a tour for a safari to the national parks of that country. The trip would begin and end at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
So be prepared for some nice pics of critters that we encountered on the trip. In all I shot 19 rolls of film. Oh how I wish digital technology existed the way it does today!