“You are touring southern Africa, but you are not going on safari?” asked the astonished husband.
“I came to meet people, not see animals,” was my glib, but honest response. “But if I bump into an elephant I will be sure to say hello.”
Nigel on the other hand had a hankering to see at least one of the big five – though we had to admit that we weren’t really sure what constituted the big five.
“Lion, rhino, hippo, elephant and giraffe?” speculated my husband.
“Not sure, but are we really going to spend £1000 we don’t have on three nights in a luxury tent in the bush so you can pretend to be David Attenborough?”
“I suppose not,” was his muted reply, but I could tell he really wanted to see at least one big animal.
As it turned out our first sighting was purely by accident. We were on our way to Mukuni village, on the outskirts of Livingstone, when I saw three elephants by the side of the road, enjoying a late lunch.
“Oh, there are some elephants,” I thought, as if spotting elephants on the roadside was a daily occurrence.
“Oh my god, there are elephants, look Nigel elephants…oh my god, they are huge,” I screamed when I fully realised what I was looking at.
Nigel was ecstatic, and I have to admit I was rather taken with the lumbering beasts.
Walter, our guide (more from him later) explained that they had probably wandered over from Livingstone’s small game reserve, or even Chobe National Park in Botswana.
“They eat all day, every day,” he said. “There are so many elephants in Chobe that they have eaten all the trees, so some come cross the border to feed.”
We were so taken with our accidental encounter with the biggest of the big five that we signed up for Walter’s game drive the very next day.
The fact that it was only $90 for two people and ten minutes drive from our guesthouse also helped make up our mind.
“And I have always wanted to see a giraffe,” said Nigel, revealing a deep desire he had managed to keep hidden until now.
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is tiny compared to reserves such as the Serengeti in Tanzania but it was big enough for us.
We soon forgot the early morning cold as we gazed in wonder at a solitary old elephant demolishing a bunch of saplings, laughed at the baby baboons baring their backsides and speculated on whether warthogs are uglier than wildebeest.
Groups of graceful impala rushed everywhere, cheeky ververt monkeys provided us with a floorshow around every corner and Nigel couldn’t resist shouting “zebra crossing” when one wandered across the path in front of us.
And there were giraffes. We watched mesmerised as the ungainly, dinosaur-like creatures lumbered across the ground in search of more trees to chew on. Even I was impressed. Nigel was ecstatic.
We didn’t spot the park’s remaining rhino – poachers had killed its companions last year and our only sighting of hippos was the top of some heads as they floated in the Zambezi river.
But that didn’t matter. We had seen a giraffe enjoy its breakfast.
PS The big five are, according to my Google search, the lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. One out of five ain't that bad...