Skip to main content

Meaningful Travel in Zimbabwe & Growing our Global Community

I am halfway into a two-week trip through Zimbabwe; it is nothing short of remarkable! The picture above was taken on a game-drive yesterday evening where we saw elephants, giraffes, zebra, leopards, lions and more, strolling on the beautiful African plains. Currently, I’m enjoying the privilege of writing this article while looking out on the Zambesi River—just 50 feet away—from my porch at the magnificent Matetsi Victoria Falls, complete with daily visits from the “locals” -mischievous baboons, elephants, and warthogs.

Clichéd as it might be, it’s hard not to have “The Lion King” playing on an endless loop in your head when you’re out on game drives, taking in the stunning scenery and natural wildlife, or staying in luxury African lodges.

Aside from the incredibly memorable game drives, I went on a rhino tracking with a very fun group and three rangers whose bright smiles reached from ear-to-ear. I also saw prehistoric cave paintings in Matobos National Park, and I met my “brother-from-another-mother,” Kevin, my guide, while staying at the enchanting Amalinda. Our hours driving together over two days gave us the opportunity to discuss everything under the African sun. I hated saying goodbye to him.

However, the most remarkable and meaningful experience, thus far, was wholly unexpected—a visit to the Ethandweni Orphanage in rural, Southern Zimbabwe. Lucky, the driver that met me when I arrived at Bulawayo Airport, told me about it, as he and his four siblings were raised there. When he was old enough to work, he was placed at Amalinda for employment. There, he rose through the ranks before attending college, fully funded by the owners, Sharon and Phil Stead, and earned a degree in hospitality. He was so proud of both Ethandweni and Amalinda; I wanted to see for myself the place that molded such a fine young man as Lucky.

Late last week, Kevin and Lucky took me to Ethandweni. I sat and talked at length with the ever-smiling schoolmarm, Zodwa, a conversation I will never forget. She told me about the 36 resident orphaned children ranging in age from infants to 18. Some have HIV, transmitted at birth; others were abandoned, and some have lost their parents to accidents or illness. Four full-time ‘mothers’ tend to the children. I got to meet ‘Mother Love’ (I kid you not!). Zodwa walked me through the facility, including the bedrooms that hold four children each, the schoolroom, dining room, recreation room, and farm. Each child has a responsibility, including tending to the farm, raising and selling rabbits, and baboon watch (did I mention they were mischievous?)

The Ethandweni Orphanage is a well-run, clean home that provides these children a positive and loving environment. But still, they struggle to make ends meet, as might be expected in rural Zimbabwe, and rely solely on donations.

Two core pillars of The Evolved Traveler’s ethos are sustainable tourism and building a sense of global community. Ethandweni presented a new opportunity for us to grow our global community. For the cost of an evening out, we will make a monthly donation to the orphanage to help maintain their home, purchase needed groceries that often run low, buy toiletries we usually take for granted, and buy gas to go to Bulawayo to take the children to see doctors and get the necessary medications.

Again, lyrics of “The Lion King” come to mind:

It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all

Through despair and hope, through faith and love

Till we find our place on the path unwinding

Circle of Life lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

The children of Ethandweni may never know about the donations we make. We hope they don’t; it is not important. What is important is that these children, on the other side of the world, are given their fair chance to find their place, their path. To know they are seen and recognized as part of our global community— “it’s what moves us all.”

I still have another week to go in this beautiful destination. I will cherish everything I’m given the opportunity to do for the remainder of my time here, every wild animal I see (even the baboons in my yard!). Still, I will remember Ethandweni and Zodwa’s smile the most. Thank you, Lucky, for sharing your home with me and broadening our sense of global community.

Traveling in 2021 or ‘The Where’s Waldo Comeback Tour’ Previous Article