Your Destination Anywhere

2 Unbelievable Weeks Through Zimbabwe and South Africa

By Alysse Harrison

If South Africa hasn’t been on your bucket list, you need to change that now.  To date, this is my favorite vacation we have ever taken.  Goodness, South Africa has something for everyone!  You want to lay on the beach, they have stunning ones.  You want amazing cuisine, they have some of the best restaurants in the world. Outdoor enthusiast? How about swimming with some of the largest Great Whites in the ocean or hiking the endless routes.  And then, what about the majestic opportunity to witness wildlife in their natural habitat.  Raw beauty. Perfection.  I honestly do not think our trip could have been any more perfect; so, if you have South Africa on your mind…rest easy because the suggestions coming are going to help shape your perfect vacation!


My husband and I were already living in Western Africa when we decided to go on this trip and so my family decided to fly over and join us. We started our trip in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The hotel we stayed at, Illala Lodge, was amazing.  We had a first-floor room and could sit on our balcony and the wart hogs would run right by us.  They were the first animals we encountered on our trip.  Oddly enough, while we were outside some meerkats were running around with the wart hogs which made my inner child so excited.  I think I exclaimed something along the lines of “Timon and Pumba really do love each other in real life!”

After getting all checked in and settled into our room, we took an adventure walk to Wild Horizons Lookout Cafe.  It is literally located on the edge of the cliffs separating Zimbabwe and Zambia.  You also have a great view of the famous bungee jumping bridge.  My husband and brother were adamant that they wanted to bungee jump, so we went over and checked it out.  After much deliberation, I was excited to have been able to talk them out of it.  Something about it didn’t feel right to me on that day, but if exhilaration and heights are your thing, you should absolutely consider bungee jumping here. What an opportunity of a lifetime!


That evening we had dinner reservations at The Boma Dinner & Drum Show. This dinner was exactly the welcome to Africa that you would hope for. The show begins the moment you arrive as they dress us in a traditional chintenge (fabric sarong). We enjoyed dance performances, face painting, a fortune teller, and the incredible interactive drumming show. The food is a meat lovers paradise. You can sample all the authentic African game meats as well as warthog, and the famous Mopani worm. I skipped out on the worm experience but my husband ate two of them. The first he said was crunchy and not that bad, so he went for a second which was juicy and “full of protein.” As we were in our vehicle headed back to the hotel, a wild elephant came out of the bush and walked right in front of our van. We were all so excited and I think this was the first time it sunk in that we were on this once-in-a-lifetime amazing vacation with so many unexpected things to come.


We traveled to Africa in May of 2016 and this is a time of year when the falls at Victoria Falls are flowing strongly.  Since the mist is so strong, viewing the falls from the ground would be very difficult so we decided the best view of the falls would be from above.  We hopped on a helicopter to catch undeniably insane views of Victoria Falls. While Victoria Falls is not the tallest or widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest due to its height and width combined.

The last thing we did in Zimbabwe was a sunset Zambezi River boat cruise.  On this cruise we were able to relax and enjoy a remarkable sunset as well as spot Crocodiles and Hippo’s.  It is an absolute MUST if you are in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The boats launch about 5 km upstream from Victoria Falls so you are very far away from any potential danger of going over the edge.  Because of rocks and rapids, there is only a small portion of the Zambezi river that allows for boat cruises.  In this area you will often see elephants crossing the river, giraffes, baboons, plains game, as well as tons of bird species.

After our amazing morning viewing Victoria Falls from above, we headed for an animal interaction that was so incredible. I have always wanted to interact with elephants and African Elephants are the largest and do not disappoint. The elephant sanctuary we visited rescues elephants in danger of being poached and killed for their ivory tusks or hunter trophies. There are several animal rescues around Africa, each doing very important work to try and maintain wildlife and prevent animals from becoming endangered. 

My husband and I were able to interact with and ride Coco, a beautiful male.  We were able to feed them and take them on a walk through the reserve.  Different than other rescues, these elephants are free.  When they are not “working” they have the entire reservation to roam freely amongst all the other natural wildlife that lives on this reserve.

While in Zimbabwe, we also were able to walk with baby lions. They were adorable. There were several times I had to remind myself that they were actually wild lions. This particular rescue we worked with has several stages of its program. They are trying to introduce more lions into the population as their numbers in the wild are drastically reducing. Unfortunately, poaching and hunting are very damaging to wild African lions. This group raises money through their interaction program and lions that have human interaction never will go totally into the wild again, although they do teach them to hunt and live on their reserve. Other lions that do not interact with humans go through different stages and are eventually released into the wild. It was a really neat program, if you would like to learn more, visit their website here:

As we ended this portion of our trip, we hopped on a short flight and headed to Cape Town, South Africa.  We arrived in Cape Town fairly late in the evening so we grabbed some sushi for dinner and called it a night.

We started our trip in Cape Town with a private tour of Cape Point and Cape Penisula including the Cape of Good Hope. This day was spectacular.  I knew Cape Town was supposedly beautiful but it took my breath away.  One of our stops fairly early in the morning was Boulders Beach which has a resident colony of African penguins.  Being someone who absolutely loves marine life, this was absolutely a highlight of our day for me.  We were able to see several baby penguins as well as adolescents that were shedding their fur.  At some point in the day, we took a short boat trip and were able to see hundreds of brown fur seals.

After arriving at the Cape of Good Hope there are a couple of different lookouts.  The first that we headed to was from the top of the Cape where we chose to ride the vernicular up to the top where the lighthouse is.  Do not pass up the opportunity to take their vernacular, the view is remarkable!  There was a great restaurant at the base of the vernacular where we grabbed some lunch.  Most of us ordered fish and it was fantastic.  The Cape of Good Hope is the Southwesternmost point of mainland Africa.  We headed down to the shore level point and there were many wild baboons that our guide warned us about.  You are not to leave any windows cracked or doors open as they scavenge for food.  Apparently, we had a window cracked in our van and as we walked back to our van, quite a crowd had gathered watching the baboons that were inside our van going through all of our stuff.  Our guide ran over and quickly shooed them out of the vehicle but they made sure to bring the Oreo cookies and chips with them.  It was quite the experience and definitely left us with many laughs.  I am not sure our guide thought it was as cute and hilarious as we did.

When we got back into town we headed over to Table Mountain.  Now usually my husband and I love hiking but on this trip, we chose to take the vernacular to the top.  If you have extra days in Cape Town and love hiking, I would suggest hiking to the top.  I think you appreciate the views so much more when you have to work for them. From the top of Table Mountain, you have an incredible 360° view of Cape Town. If you can, plan to spend some time soaking up the gorgeous views from the top of Table Mountain.

As we came down from Table Mountain we headed over to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (V&A). This area has tons of excellent shops, restaurants, and hotels.  If you have the budget, I recommend staying at the Cape Grace.  This hotel is 5 stars and will absolutely leave you impressed. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and finished the evening off with some cocktails.  One amazing thing about traveling to South Africa is that your money goes pretty far.  Aside from our safari, most everything was very reasonably priced.

The next morning we woke up and took an uber out to the Cheetah Outreach.  The Cheetah Outreach is a non-profit organization that’s primary goal is to promote the survival of the free ranging, South African, cheetah through enviornmental education and conservation initiatives.  If you haven’t caught on yet, I love animals and so any chance I have to learn more about conservation and saving our endangered species, I take it!

After a great morning of learning about Cheetahs, we decided to have a chill afternoon at Camps Bay.  Camps Bay is a great beach area in Cape Town.  There are many restaurants and shops and the beach is so beautiful.  We had the best afternoon doing a whole lot of nothing.  We sat out on a jetty and played cards listening to the waves crashing all around us.  Watched the sunset and just enjoyed some family time.  It is so important during your vacations to actually take a day (or half-day) and just relax.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to miss anything on our trips but there is something so refreshing about just enjoying each other’s company.

The next morning we were picked up for our private transfer to the Stellenbosch Wine Region.  We stayed at an adorable bed and breakfast located in a working winery in Franschhoek. Auberge Clermont was the name of our bed and breakfast and if you look it up, it is adorable.  We enjoyed a full day of wine tasting and were thankful for our driver taking us from place to place.  South Africa has some amazing wines.  We wished they shipped more to the United States because we loved each of the wineries we went to.  One of the wineries we attended was Fairview. Our favorite wine here was called broken barrel. They are known for their goats outside and they treat them as part of the family. We had lunch and a wine tasting at Delaire Graff Estates. This is a very high end and luxurious experience. They have an incredibly nice jewelry store on site, lodges, boutiques, a spa, winery and restaurant. Another winery we stopped at was Warwick Estate where we learned a beautiful love story and got to drink from the “marriage cup”. Along our Spice Route wine tour, we also enjoyed chocolate and beer tasting. It was the perfect day.

If you have read this far into this post, thank you! Now is my absolute favorite part of the trip and why most people venture all the way to South Africa.  We took a small plane ride out to Hoedspruit airport where we met with our driver who transferred us to our safari lodge.  We did not want to do our safari in Kruger National Park because it is the most common and large flocks of tourists go there.  Also, because it isn’t a private reserve you are not able to go off the path at Kruger and really get up close and personal with the animals.  We chose the Thornybush Private Reserve which is adjacent to Kruger National Park.

There are several lodging options on the Thornybush reserve.  We stayed at Serondella Game Lodge and WOW, it was amazing.  The grounds were beautiful, chef prepared us incredible meals, and the staff just put the cherry on top.  They do everything they can to make sure your stay is incredible and really treat you as if you are family. Now to the animals.  We saw everything.  Rhinos. Elephants. Lions. Leopards. Giraffes. Buffalo. Zebras. Cudu. Plains Game. Birds. Crocodiles. Hippos. The list just goes on and on.  When you go on a safari, you generally wake up early and go on a game drive as the sun is rising.

After a couple of hours out, you head back to your lodge for a lovely chef-prepared breakfast.  You have a few hours to rest, swim in the pool, watch over the watering hole, or do whatever you want.  Then that evening you head back out for your safari ride.  Each night we enjoyed a “sun-downer” where we got out of our vehicle and enjoyed happy hour while we watched the magnificent sunsets.  We would head back to our lodge for impeccable dinners and then enjoy more free time. I feel like I don’t even need to describe this experience in words because these photos can tell so much more of the story.

This trip was our trip of a lifetime.  If South Africa is on your bucket list…be prepared to shell out some money but it is totally worth it. To this date, it is still the trip we talk about.  Some of our favorite memories as a family are from this trip. Several of these animals we got to see in the wild are becoming endangered or are already severely endangered.  There is so much we can learn and appreciate from nature.  I can tell you after you experience wildlife in its true habitat, a zoo will never be the same.  Take the trip.  See the things.  Love the experience. 

Where will your next adventure take you?

Contact Alysse Harrison