Katie Boychuck’s Waterfalls and Wildlife trip didn’t roll out the way she planned. She had anticipated it as an awesome couple’s trip to celebrate her fiftieth birthday. First, a pandemic delayed the departure for three years. Then shortly before they were to leave, the relationship ended. Katie had put a lot of time and energy into the planning for a milestone birthday. So, despite the turn of events, she decided to try it on her own.

It was better than she could have imagined!

“I was looking forward to seeing the animals. And I enjoy meeting people through both solo and group travel. On these trips, you’re on your own, and at the same time, you’re not.”

Katie had traveled in South Africa, including safari excursions, and was eager to experience more of Africa. “I looked forward to going to the (Okavango) Delta and on the river cruise. “When you’re actually in it with elephants crossing right in front of you and zebras racing you, it’s mind-blowing! And you see diverse herds in massive numbers. When you round a corner and see a male elephant you know it’s not the same one you just saw. I was all over the place emotionally, but it was super cool.”

Since this trip marked beginnings in many ways, when the opportunity for a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls presented itself, she climbed aboard. “I’m terrified of helicopters, but I did it anyway, bolstered by a bit of peer pressure.” Her front row seat gave her an excellent view of the ground and the Falls. “It’s so green and lush. And massive! You can’t see the whole thing all at once.”

Growing up within a stone’s throw of Niagara Falls, she had expected similarities between the two natural wonders. “Victoria Falls is very different, not what I thought it would be. It’s way longer, even if you straightened out Niagara Falls’ horseshoe. When you walk along the bottom, you are in a cloud-creating rain forest and it’s raining. Not like the mist of Niagara. Keep walking and the biosphere changes to desert.” There were other differences. “You don’t get all the tacky tourist places like those clustered around Niagara Falls. Also, the volume of water going over Victoria Falls noticeably differs by season, something you don’t discern in Niagara.”

Both waterfalls are part of rivers that form international boundaries: the Niagara River flows between Canada and the US; Victoria Falls is on the Zambezi River which forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Sossusvlei, a salt and clay pan in the southern Namib desert, provided another highlight. “I knew we’d be running in the massive red dunes, but I didn’t expect them to be so high, or the climb so hard. Running down was more of a challenge than it sounds, too.”

Seeing Africa’s wildlife was high on her list of priorities, although it looked dubious that she’d get to see the elusive King of the Jungle. “We saw leopards on two separate occasions but nearing the end of the trip, there had been no lion. We had already dropped Mike (Higgs—driver) off and were wrapping up with the park guide, ready to leave disappointed. As we turned around, about 500 meters away were two of them lounging in the middle of the road. We had to wait until eventually park personnel came and encouraged them to move on.”

Katie Boychuck’s next big trip will be Alaska with her mother and daughter to celebrate more landmark birthdays. She expects her next motorcycle travel to be within Canada. Further on, she has her sights set on experiencing Mongolia in the side-by-side.

Photo credits: Katie Boychuck