Green Africa By Ryan Heffes

When it comes to African Safaris, Zimbabwe is definitely a creature of its own.

The first thing that you notice getting out of the plane in Zimbabwe: this is not stereotypical Africa. Instead, the expected open, boring plains were replaced by a mountainous region filled with dense foliage, proving that Zimbabwe’s Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve features many more habitats than that which would be expected out of Southern Africa. The initial drive, from the airstrip to the lodge where I was staying, was especially fascinating and gave me a greater idea of the geographical diversity present. One moment I was in the midst of a lion in a stereotypical African Safari setting, the next I was weaving through a mountainous region full of animals that I would never have guessed to be living here. When it comes to African Safaris, Zimbabwe is definitely a creature of its own.

Rainforest in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe courtesy of Ninara.

I never could have thought that a couple hour drive through an African Reserve could change my entire perception on a group of people and their way of life the way it did. Our safari guide, Mark Friend, brought my family and me along with him to an African village that he frequented with families that he was guiding. This experience was not only humbling, but it made me really think about some prejudices that the people in the United States have towards others. The members of the village could do things that I never could have even dreamed of doing, for example: cracking a whip to scare away the lions and other animals that would enter into the small village, be able to identify if a certain fruit or any food for that matter was edible or poisonous, set traps capable of trapping a variety of different animals within seconds, and have the patience to teach strangers who just wandered onto their land their way of life.

We could all sense the clear joy that they felt

As soon as we arrived at the village, we were instantly greeted by many smiling faces thanking us for coming to visit. We could all sense the clear joy that they felt, getting to show people what their way of life really is, not what stereotypes show it to be. Walking straight over to their fire pit, I saw a young man around twenty years old easily ignite a fire that would have been large enough for the whole village with just a piece of dried cow dung, flint, a rock, some grass, and two sticks. He looked up and saw me staring, “your turn” he said calmly like starting the fire was a piece of cake. He carefully showed me each step to making the fire and then let me loose. I thought to myself that I should be able to do it no problem, boy was I wrong. Not only did I not start a fire, it got to the point where he clapped and said nice job when the tiniest bit of smoke puffed out of the stick.

African village courtesy of Ninara

They continued to show us all about how they lived their daily lives, and we also got to see them chase down a rogue cow who decided to break through the wooden fence-like structure he was enclosed in. The village members continued to show us just how intelligent they were and how much they knew about the land when the head of the village gave us a speech about how they decided if fruits that they scavenged were edible or not. The complexity to this made me realize much more about this culture, and it destroyed some of the prejudices that being an American made me feel towards the people of these African villages.

Cecil the Lion in the Hwange National Park

Photo courtesy of Daughter #3

The way these people live isn't nearly as non-advanced as a technology driven prejudice indicates, they are just advanced in different ways. Sure they don't have smartphones or Internet like most Americans have, but the way they take advantage of everything they have at their disposal shows how advanced they really are.

What intrigued me the most was the effort a sixteEn YeaR old boy put into His education

The people of the village also are not as different as people from people from the the United States as many may think, as many of the kids in the village shared a true passion for learning similar to the kids in the US. What intrigued me the most was the effort a sixteen year old boy put into his education. He was a skilled craftsman who was very good at manufacturing arrowheads that were used for many things such as ceremonies and hunting. He used this talent and created a mass amount of these so that he could sell them to others and make some money off of it. Since Zimbabwe’s national currency is the United States dollar, his goal is to save enough money for him to learn English. With this new knowledge, his wanted to try and save for him to go to a school around five miles from the village and further his knowledge so one day he can move to America. The drive he showed really inspired me and was an overall humbling experience to what I have in my life and how I should treat and take advantage of everything I have.

Lead photo courtesy of Harvey Barrison


Created with images by Ninara - "Mukuni Village, Zambia"

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