Zimbabwe: A Lesson in the Rules

Recently, we journeyed to Southern Africa on an adventure to experience the cultures and natural beauty of the African continent. One of our stops was an incredible safari lodge in Zambezi National Park adjacent to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The lodge stood alone, several miles out of town overlooking a flourishing watering hole.

We spent our several days there with our eyes glued to the water, fascinated by the warthogs, kudu, baboons, and elephants who came to quench their thirst.

Zimbabwe proved to be quite a hot and dry country with temperatures easily soaring past 100°F. The heat drove the hotel guests to mimic the animals and wallow in the hotel pool. The pool itself was delightful, a small two-tiered set of pools with a waterfall in between. It was designed to look as natural as possible, stone trimmings and plants flanking the slightly murky water.

On our first evening at the lodge we decided a late night swim under the stars was just the ticket. Unfortunately, we discovered that the pool closed at 4pm each day, preventing our midnight dip. The rebel in me wanted to say, “What are they going to do if we do go in the pool after hours? Kick us out? Nah!”

That rebellious side was forced to simmer down, however, in the face of fatigue from a day of touring the area surrounding Victoria Falls. Instead, we agreed to be rule-abiding hotel guests and visit the pool the following day during its open hours.

The wait was worth it! The cool waters served as a healing balm on my scorched skin. Watching the wild animals frequent the watering hole as we sipped cold beer and lounged pool-side was the highlight of a fabulous safari lodge experience! Thanks Zimbabwe!

On our last morning, we were enjoying a scrumptious breakfast on the open veranda, when we noticed several concerned hotel staff members peering quizzically into the depths of the pool. The staff piqued our interest even more when they produced a long pole with a substantial wire loop protruding from the end.

We started discussing the possibility of a drowned monkey or the like when Aaron saw a relatively small (5 foot!) crocodile slither across the bottom of the pool. This revelation was made even more shocking by the dawning realization that we had been swimming in that same water not twelve hours before. To make matters even more disturbing, I am absolutely positive that we hadn’t checked the pool for unexpected visitors before we dove in. It turned out that the crocodile crawled into the pool sometime after it had closed the day before. Fortunately, we had not broken the rules and gone for that evening swim. We might have unwittingly disturbed a toothy crocodile!

We were highly entertained for the next hour watching the crocodile extraction. It was quite a process.The crocodile escaped the first time staff managed to drag it to the pool deck and dove back into the waters of temporary freedom after the metal loop broke! The staff finally succeed in removing the reptile from the pool on the second attempt and returned it to the great Zambezi River where it belonged.

This experience taught us two very important points to keep in mind during your travels. One, rules are often set in place for good reasons that may not be apparent to mere tourists. Two, always check the bottom of the pool before jumping in!

-Your Friends at Orange Backpack Travel

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