Victoria Falls

An African Safari – Day 16 -Victoria Falls

Sorry for the delay in this last post about Africa guys!  Life has been a bit hectic of late.  Anyway, getting back to the last day of my safari through Africa…

After the morning’s tumultuous and hectic white water rafting, I arrived back at my hotel pretty exhausted, not to mention rather soggy, so it was a quick change before getting a taxi the short distance to the Falls which are in their own protected area and national park.  There is a fee of around $30 per person to get into the park and once through the gate you are free to roam the pathways at your leisure as well as the souvenir stalls.

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We arrived late afternoon when the sun was beginning to descend towards the horizon and, if completely honest, this was the best time to go as the intense heat of midday was waning making the walk around the pathways and dense foliage much more enjoyable and more relaxed.

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You hear the falls before you can see them and a fine spray of fresh water lands upon your skin and hair letting you know you are close.  Ambling along the pathways you get peeks through the trees of the spectacle to come and eventually you arrive at various viewing points along the way allowing you to fully absorb the views of one of the world’s seven wonders.

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The noise from the water crashing down below is thunderous and we were visiting at ‘low season’ too when the water is by no means at it’s fastest or wildest.  The spray from the water creates a sheen on everything it touches, including you, and also forms one heck of  a rainbow.

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I was trying desperately to keep my camera and lens dry but alas, I failed at this point as you can see specks of water droplets on the image below.

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I guess with it being dry season you can appreciate the enormity of the ravine below you and see just how deep the water travels, I can imagine that at ‘high’ season the noise and movement of the water must be remarkable.

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The low water showed the riverbed and its rocks like those we had to clamber over earlier in the day for our white water rafting – quite tricky when all you have on your feet is a pair of converse lows.

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I dared to creep ever closer to the edge and lay on my front to get this view looking down towards the water.  You can just see tiny coloured specks at the edge of the water which is more rafters clambering down for white water river fun.

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I’d say two hours is all that’s needed to wander around the pathways at the Falls and take ample photographs.  We were there later in the day when it was pretty quiet but I’d imagine at peak season it would get busy through the day and you’d have to fight for a spot at the viewpoints.  Might be an idea to take along something waterproof to protect your camera also and remember to bargain with the guys who want to sell you bottled water at the souvenir stalls.  Our taxi driver was also very  reliable and appeared again 2 hours later at the time we stated to pick us up and take us back to our hotel.  Just give him a decent tip!

Does anyone else have any tips on visiting Victoria Falls?  Who has ever been and would you go back?

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An African Safari – Day 15 – Arrival in Victoria Falls

Waking up the day after being at Hwange National Park meant that we were on our way to Victoria Falls in north western Zimbabwe.  I was keen to take in this location as part of our trip as the falls are classed as the largest sheet of falling water on earth being 1708m wide and 108m in height, which is twice the height of Niagara falls, so I knew they were not to be missed.  The falls divide two separate countries with Zambia being on one side and Zimbabwe the other.  So, after yet another early start we were on the final leg of our trip now and headed to our last location which was the town of Victoria Falls for 2 nights.  It wasn’t a long journey from Hwange to the falls and after a quick stop for ‘bushy bushy’ we arrived early afternoon and were dropped off at Wild Horizons tour office to decide what activities we wanted to do whilst Matt and Freddie headed to the nearby campsite.

Our ever-present and faithful guide, Manda, came with us to the tour office to ensure all went smoothly and we got our bookings done after watching a video of all things on offer.  There was bungee jumping, gorge swing, white water rafting, micro light flights, game drives, riverboat cruises, elephant back rides, horse riding, helicopter tours, bush walks, canoeing – you name it, it was there.  A number of us opted for the late afternoon ‘booze cruise’.  If you’re imagining one of those boats from the Ibiza summer parties then your average booze cruise this was not.  This was to be a much more subdued and leisurely affair of sipping drinks whilst cruising up the Zambezi river at sunset whilst absorbing the sights and sounds.  ‘Yes…’ I thought, rubbing my hands together with glee, ‘Now I get to sip my favourite beverage whilst also getting photo opportunities…’  I was also looking forward to a bloody good shower and being able to rid my feet of Africa’s constant sand (really, it is everywhere and not just near the coast) and for a chance to get a bit dressed up for the first time in what felt like an age!  So, after our booze cruise and my activity for the following day was booked (which was white water rafting but more on that in my next post) we headed to our hotel to get ready.  Yes, we were headed to an actual hotel.  It felt really odd being near civilisation, albeit quite limited, and seeing lots of other people.  For days and days we had been touring in the wilderness across national parks and endless dusty roads and now we were back in amongst people out-with the small family that was our tour group.

We had already pre-booked our hotel room but Kathy and Dave had not and, since they had upgraded to lodge accommodation throughout the trip like myself and mum, I think they were keen to join us at the hotel and make good use of the AC and comfy beds.  The rest of our travellers were staying at the campsite a 5 minute walk away from our hotel.  After we were showered and ready we waited in the hotel reception waiting to be picked up by Wild Horizons to be taken to the river to begin our sunset cruise at 430pm.  Joining us were some of our fellow tour members: Pam, Pete and Manuella as well as Kathy and Dave.

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We boarded a mini bus and were driven the short distance to the river where we boarded a wide, flat river boat and all sat together as we lazily glided up the Zambezi towards the setting sun.  The waiters were attentive and didn’t take long to hop on over and take our order, it was G&T’s all-round and doubles no less.  Well, you’ve got to take full advantage of the price, don’t you?  For the 2 hour cruise along with unlimited drinks it was $50 which I thought was pretty reasonable.  I think we were all grateful for a chance to relax, chat and enjoy some gin after 2 weeks of solid touring – it was quite the novelty.

Along the river we spotted giraffe feeding on tall trees, various birds wading through the shallow waters then we came across this guy peeking out from the water’s edge…He was a youngster at only 4 or 5 feet long…

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And these lovely ladies were keeping themselves cool in the deeper water occasionally rising to the surface to twitch their ears and yawn…

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For me, hippos immediately conjure memories of watching Disney’s ‘Fantasia‘ as a child.  In particular, the scene where the hippos are the most delicate of ballerinas playing a game of cat and mouse with dastardly crocodiles…and here was the real thing!  Except with, you know, less tutus and classical music…

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After we’d been in the boat for an hour or so (and a good few double gins later) the sun started to descend towards the horizon and gave us probably the most beautiful sunset we’d seen the entire trip.  Remember what I said about those African sunsets whilst at Hwange?  Well, they were equally as dazzling on the water.  The sky was a brilliant fiery orange at first with the sun’s reflection shimmering on the water and as it gradually came down towards the trees it melted into a baby pink and faded into sumptuous lilac.  For a short time you could just see the top of the sun peeking out from above the horizon before it disappeared again until morning.

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Now that we were all suitably merry after our double G&T’s, we were off to meet the others for a meal to celebrate our last evening together as a group.  There was a restaurant next to the campsite where we met and got fired into some of the local cuisine including crocodile and mushroom tagliatelle, warthog schnitzel and crocodile curry.  Even though I did try some of these that the others had ordered I played it safe and had a chicken salad.  I had a big day ahead of me the next day as I was getting picked up at 7am to head off on a white water rafting trip along the lower Zambezi.  Looking back, I’m not entirely convinced that we were told exactly what was involved and how extreme it would be but that all added to the anticipation…

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