Monday, December 31, 2018

Return to Africa - Part 6: Victoria Falls

May 19 - 21, 2018

Victoria Falls and a Zipline Adventure

Silly me.  I had always assumed the Victoria Falls poured out of Lake Victoria.  Well, I was wrong!  They are over 1,000 miles apart.  Lake Victoria is bordered by Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, while Victoria Falls lies far south and forms part of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Victoria Falls would be the final destination of our Africa safari.

But first, the Okavango Delta had a few more gifts for us on our early morning drive to the airstrip.  We all bundled up against the chill, said farewell to the camp staff, and boarded our Land Rovers for the very last game drive of our tour.  There were lots of familiar animals, looking especially beautiful in the golden glow of the sunrise. 
Saying goodbye to the staff at Tamog Tent Camp

Early morning sunrise over the savannah

Juvenile Brown Snake Eagle

Tawny Eagle

Then…more good luck!  We got word of a second leopard!  This time we were joined by several other vehicles, but the cat seemed quite unconcerned and continued napping in its snug bed on the stump of a broken tree.  What a wonderful way to end our Okavango Adventure!

We had to leave the leopard to hurry to the airstrip where we found our luggage already lined up along the runway.  Can you spot the two rebels in the group?  Rob and I always travel carry-on only, so we had chosen not to use the big duffel bags provided by our tour company.  It certainly made our bags easy to spot!
The Okavango Airstrip

Can you spot the rebels' bags?

And here are the two rebels!  

One of our planes narrowly missed a herd of zebras bolting across the runway!

Rob studies our planes.
After our flight, the bust trip to Victoria Falls included a stop at a Cultural Center where we were greeted by musicians and treated to a lunch of authentic local food and drink.  I didn’t take notes on the foods offered, and most were delicious, but I do remember that there were a few I was too timid to try.

Victoria Falls was quite a different experience than any we had had in Africa before.  The town is small but obviously caters to a tourist crowd, with lots of attractive shops, upscale hotels, and even a Kentucky Fried Chicken!  (Not that I count that as an actual asset.)  We were guests at the lovely Shearwater Explorers Village, and after a short greeting and orientation, we settled into our modern hotel rooms…quite a change from our tent on the Okavango! 
Orientation from the Shearwater Explorers Village staff

The hotel pool and deck

Shearwater Explorers Village

Our room - From our front door, we could see mist rising from Victoria Falls.

The town of Victoria Falls is in Zimbabwe, and the nearby Zambezi River forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.  Later in the afternoon, Charles took some of us on a walk to the bridge over the Zambezi Gorge for our first glimpse of the Falls.  We got only a taste of what was to come the following day, but even from a distance, the falls were spraying us with the mist that rises from the gorge.

The next day was our only full day in Victoria Falls, and we were offered a choice of a variety of excursions to fill the day, from helicopter rides to elephant rides to bungee jumping into the gorge.  Rob and I chose to spend the morning browsing the town and the attractive shopping center next to our hotel.  Some of the artwork was stunning, but too large to pack into our little carry-on bags, so I was content just to admire the many craft items on display.

The rest of our day was much more exciting with a visit to the mighty Victoria Falls and a thrilling zipline adventure.

Victoria Falls is another UNESCO world heritage site, and is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  In the local native language, Victoria Falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders”…and what an apt name that is!  We had the privilege of seeing the falls at the end of the rainy season when they are at their fullest.  This is the largest mass of falling water in the world, 5,000 feet wide, and falling over 350 feet (twice as far as Niagara Falls.)  Nearly 150,000,000 gallons of water per minute pour over the falls from the wide Zambezi River into the narrow gorge below, causing the water to shoot back upwards in a thick mist that falls on the visitor like a rain storm.  We walked along the pathway through the lush jungle, watered thoroughly by the mist, and marveled at the power and beauty of the falls.  The sunlight through the mist caused multiple rainbows that left us gasping in delight.  I’ve included photos, but they just don’t convey the full experience, so be sure to click on this video link, which gives a better, (although still pale), glimpse of what it was like to stand before this awesome force of nature.  Link:  Victoria Falls

Dr. David Livingstone was the first white explorer to observe the falls. 
We enjoyed a very informative lecture about his life and wonderful work here.

Sometimes the mist almost completely obscured the view.

The lush jungle along the riverbank
Thoroughly drenched, Rob and I returned to our hotel for a little rest before our next adventure, the zipline that took us from Zambia to Zimbabwe, right across the Lower Zambezi River Gorge.  Of all the ways of crossing a country border, this was certainly the most thrilling!  We were picked up by a shuttle at our hotel, and taken across the bridge to the sports center in Zambia, where the tourist could choose between bungee jumping, a gorge swing, and the zipline.  There is no way you will get me to jump off a bridge on a bungee, or swinging over the gorge on a thin cord, so the zipline seemed like the safest selection.  I was encouraged by the professionalism of the staff and the heft of the equipment.  We were soon suited up in a tight harness and ready to go!  The line stretched from a platform on the edge of the cliff over to another platform under the huge bridge.  Rob went first, which helped me screw up my courage, as he made it safely across and was met at the other side and helped onto the bridge. 
I hope they weren't  marking us so they could identify our bodies when we went plunging to the bottom of the gorge!

Rob looks pretty confident just before his zipline adventure!

He gives me a thumbs-up...

...and off he goes!

Click this link for a Video of Rob's Zipline

With heart beating wildly, I  stepped forward for my turn.  The attendant strapped me into the equipment, handed me a Go-Pro and some instructions, then shoved me off the cliff!  Wow!  The whole ride took only a few seconds, and I tried to take it all in, looking at the falls in the distance and the rushing water in the gorge far below.  I did get frightened when my cord twisted me around so I could not see where I was going, but the well-designed zipline slowed down well-before reaching the other side, where I was met and helped out of my equipment by other friendly attendants.  Whew!
I was not as calm as I appear!

Click this link for a Video of Joan's Zipline

Our final evening of the tour was upon us, and it was a very special one.  Our tour group gathered and traveled to a pier on the upper Zambezi for a lovely evening boar ride along the swollen river.  As we enjoyed dinner on the boat, we shared our travel memories, snapped photos of the swollen river and the beautiful sunset.  What a lovely way to end a very memorable trip!

Warthogs on the hotel grounds where we picked up some additional guests

Boarding our evening cruise boat

We traveled with a great group of people!

The Zambezi was very high...overflowing the banks of the little islands that dotted the river.

Entertainers on the boat.  They sang the original (and correct) version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Storks in the sunset

Sunset over the Zambezi River
Farewell to Africa - but not for the last time!

1 comment:

Annis Cassells said...

FAB-U-LOUS, Joan! Loved the zip lining photos! What a way to cross a border, huh? As always, your informative commentary and gorgeous photos take us right there. Thank you. xoA