Lessons from an African Village Chief

After surviving our face-to-face encounter with white rhino in Matobo National Park, our guide has one last stop for us before we head back to camp.


As we’re driving down the muddy, dirt road, children start to pop out from behind the trees. Their faces light up with excitement as they run alongside our safari truck, waving and greeting us with smiles from ear to ear. Some take this opportunity to make a couple of bucks by selling us bowls of fruit; $1 per bowl. The bowls contain fruits I’d never seen before, but being a fruit-obsessee, I sample each one as they get passed down from the front of the truck to the back.

African Village Kids - Zimbabwe

Our guide parks our safari truck at the entrance of a traditional African village – the kind with dirt floors, mud-huts, a straw roofs. At first, the village seems deserted, but within seconds, there are shy village children peeping out of their huts to see what all the commotion is.

African Village Visit in Zimbabwe


Apparently we’ve arrived at the most perfect of times – the village Chief is present and invites us into his hut. We enter the hut and huddle around on the ground. The temperature inside takes me by surprise – it is much cooler in here compared to the humid air outside. Actually, the entire hut surprises me. It’s extremely comfortable and well put together; there’s no rain leaking through, no insects in sight, it’s extremely clean, and the walls are thick and durable for the most intense of weather conditions. Very impressive considering it’s man-made with only sticks, mud, rocks and straw.

African Village Chief in ZimbabweThe village Chief is all smiles; quite the infectious charisma for an 81 year old. He does not speak a smidgen of English, but that does not stop me from being fixated on his every word. He begins by asking each and every one of us where we are from (our guide translates). He has absolutely no idea where any of the countries we come from are in relation to each other, but he has a story for each from previous encounters with other village visitors. When a couple tell him they’re from England, he has memories of the Queen coming to visit his village. When another couple mention the USA, he starts chanting “YOU-SA, YOU-SA, YOU-SA” (U-S-A, U-S-A haha).

The Chief goes on to share an incredible story of his hands-on battle with a leopard that kept stealing his villages food supply many years ago. Due to the severity of his injuries at the time, he was unable to recall much of what happened. After the battle, he awoke in a hospital and was told by the doctor that a white man had dragged him in. Until this day, he still has no idea who the man that took him to the hospital was, but says he owes his live to this one, white fella.

Although proving victorious, the encounter left him blind in one eye and scarred his body with several deep puncture wounds in both his leg and lower back from the leopards teeth. He shows off his triumphant scars to each of us before telling us that the skin he is wearing around his waist is from that same leopard that attacked him. This guy just oozes wisdom; he is so proud to be wearing the skin, and so happy to be alive to tell the tale.

Before we leave the Chiefs hut, he asks one of the older ladies in our group if she is married. When she says that she is a widow, he walks over to her, links her arm into his, and says that she will be his new wife. While we all enjoy a laugh, she seems quite concerned with her lack of say on this matter. The Chief offers our tour guide ten cows in exchange for her to be left behind and made his wife. Our guide informs us that the larger you are, the higher you are worth on the African cow-exchange chart as you are seen as strong and healthy. After learning this, I decide that I would be worth no less than 20 cows. Heck, my ass alone should be able to bring in at least 15!


Our visit is almost like Christmas morning for the village kids. They run up to us, jump up into our arms to be held, ask over and over again what our names are and where we are from, and want us to take as many photos as humanly possible with them. It should be noted that even kids in the most rural of locations without any access to technology know how to take selfies – true story.

The youngest of the tribe is a complete cutie pie. He is all about jumping into my arms, stealing my sunnies from the top of my head and putting them onto his. They are so big on him that they almost cover his entire face.

All the village kids gather around to sing and dance for us. They put on quite the show but the little guy always manages to steal the limelight.

African Village Children - Zimbabwe

After another incredible day, we head back to camp for our final night in Zimbabwe. Tomorrow we cross back into South Africa and make out way over to Kruger National Park for New Years Eve.

African Village Chief

African Village Chief