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Published: March 21st 2020
Victoria Falls I
View from the Zambian side
After our homestay in Macha with Daphious and his family, our host took us back to Choma on Sunday morning, from where we caught a bus to the city of Livingstone in the very south of Zambia, on the border to Zimbabwe. The journey was rather fast because the roads down south are a bit better. The distance between Choma and Livingstone is about 200 km, and it took us about three hours to get there. The bus was fast, but we were sitting in a rather crammed manner, the driver was listening to loud music, and someone had spilled some soft drink so that the floor was sticky. We were glad once we got off the bus at around 1 pm. The bus was surrounded by taxi drivers immediately, and we needed some determination to make our way out of the crowd. Our hostel was within walking distance from the bus station, so we walked.
We stayed at Fawlty Towers
, a guesthouse located rather in the centre of Livingstone, but on the road to Victoria Falls. All the bungalows are arranged around a courtyard with a garden and swimming pool, and there is a bar with nice outside seating where
Victoria Falls II
View from a bit closer.
one can have meals and that offers free pancakes every afternoon. I liked it there immediately. We had a little rest and then went for a Zambezi River cruise in the afternoon.
We were picked up by a minibus and taken to the river. However, it turned out that we must have been on the wrong bus because we arrived at the wrong jetty. Our driver asked around a little bit, and I was starting to worry that we might miss our boat, but finally he pointed us to the right jetty.
We had booked a cruise on a small boat, with seats for only up to 15 people. This meant that we could get close to the banks of the river and that we would be able to see more. We were offered cold drinks while waiting, and then we set off onto the cruise. First, we went upriver. We saw lots of birds, crocodiles, and hippos. Then we went downriver at high speed. This was fun and exciting, and it was amazing how our captain steered the boat around small islands in the river. I am sure he enjoyed it too! We made a stop-over on
Victoria Falls III
Panoramic view of the Falls.
an island, where our guides set up a table with some snacks. All of us wanted to go to the toilet, but before we were allowed to go into the bushes, our guides had to check the area for wildlife. Thanks to our guides’ care, none of the passengers got bitten by a snake or eaten by a crocodile, so we could enjoy snacks and a cold drink before heading off again. We found a nice spot on the river where we could see the sun plunge into the river, a most beautiful view. The colour of the sun gradually shifts from yellow to pink and orange, and the colours are reflected on the water. Once the sun had set, it got dark quickly, and our captain took us back. He dropped one couple off directly at the Royal Livingstone, a luxury hotel right on the banks of the river. Just a few metres from the fence of the hotel garden we could see an elephant. This was amazing! We learned that there is a tree close to the hotel that carries fruit the elephants like, and that this is why they come so close to the premises. However, we
Victoria Falls IV
We were there during dry season, so there is not as much water running down the Falls as during rainy season.
also learned that some tourists don’t respect wildlife. Apparently, not too long ago a tourist had left the hotel premises and approached an elephant, and he had been killed by this elephant. This is wildlife, not pets! Anyway, we got back to the jetty safely and were welcomed by some traditional music that was played while we were waiting for our minibus to take us back to the hotel. After dinner in a close-by restaurant we had an early night.
On Monday morning, we caught the guesthouse shuttle to Victoria Falls. In the local language, Lozi, it is called “Mosi-oa-Tunya”, meaning “The Smoke Which Thunders” – so much more poetic than “Victoria Falls”! The reason for the name becomes obvious when one sees the falls: Across a width of almost two kilometres, the Zambezi River falls over 100 metres into a gorge that only has one exit. Sometimes there is so much spray in the air that one can hardly see the falls. One side of them is on the Zimbabwean side of the river, the other on the Zambian one. Zambezi River is the border between the two countries. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, was the
Victoria Falls V
This picture nicely illustrates why the Falls are also called "The Smoke that Thunders".
first European to discover the falls, and he named them “Victoria Falls” in honour of Queen Victoria. However, “Mosi-oa-Tunya” is still used. The town of Livingstone on the Zambian side of the river was obviously named after David Livingstone.
We were lucky that there were only few people, so we could take our time and gradually walk along the rim of the gorge and enjoy all the different views of the mighty falls. We also walked upstream a bit in order to see the falls from above. One is not allowed to get to close to the river because of crocodiles. After having walked as far as we were allowed to, we went back to a spot from which we had a beautiful view of the Falls, and we just stayed there for some time and watched. It is simply an amazing view.
Before heading back into town, we descended 150 metres to the banks of the river to see the Boiling Pot. Here, the water from the first gorge, the one it falls into, flows out into a second gorge, and, making a sharp turn, has carved out a pot. The water really looks as if it
was boiling. From down here, we also got an impression of how tall the waterfalls are. Upon arrival by the banks, we had to sign into a book, and we had to sign out again before leaving in order to make sure that we would not get lost. We made our way back up, accompanied by several baboon families that were not shy at all, and then caught a taxi back to our hostel.
On Tuesday morning, we went horseback riding in Mosi-oa-Tunay National Park, a small national park on the Zambian side of the River Zambezi. We were a group of four, and before assigning horses to us, the guide asked us how experienced we were in horseback riding. Mizzi and I had plenty of experience, so finding a horse for us was easy. Mine was called “Night Landing”. All horses looked well-fed and were friendly. We rode through the park of the Royal Livingstone Hotel where there is wild giraffe and zebra, and we passed them within a few metres. They are used to humans and thus were not scared at all. In the National Park itself we did not see much wildlife apart from a few
Victoria Falls VII
View from the banks of Zambezi River, close to Boiling Pot, to the railway bridge leading into Zimbabwe.
birds, but that was fine, it was an enjoyable ride. After about two hours, we arrived back at the stables. On our way back to the hostel, our driver had to stop along the road to let the Zambian President’s entourage pass. There was apparently a meeting that he was going to attend in Livingstone, and all cars needed to give way. The entourage was huge, with lots of motorcycles and cars, and of course it was impossible to tell which one the president was in. We spent the afternoon in the Livingstone Museum, which I found worthwhile visiting. It gives a good overview of how people used to live before the Europeans came, and also of fauna and flora in the country.
On Wednesday morning, we went for an Encounter with Cheetahs and Lions. We were picked up by a minibus and taken to a sanctuary. In this sanctuary, young cheetahs and lions are raised and returned to the wild. By walking the territory with the guides, we had read, they are becoming accustomed to their natural environment, just as they would when walking the bush with their parents. We had been a bit sceptical initially: Was this
Zambezi River Cruise I
The small boat in the foreground was ours.
really what they were doing, for the animals’ benefit? Or was this a kind of zoo designed to make money with tourists? The latter was of course something we did not want to support, on the other hand we were more than happy to support something that would help increase the number of wild beast in Zambia again and at the same time offer local people an income outside poaching. After doing a bit of research, we had decided to give it a go, and so we arrived at the sanctuary in the early morning.
First, the guides took us (a group of six people) to the cheetah enclosure. The guides explained to us how we were to behave towards the animals. Rule number one, which also applied to the lions, was to never approach them frontally because then one would be seen as prey. Rather, we were to approach them from behind. We could kneel down and pat them and even touch their tails because this is what their cubs do as well. We were told to get up calmly in case the cheetah would turn around. But the animal seemed not to mind the tourists petting it.
The fur was incredibly soft, and they were just majestic, even lying down. After spending some time in the enclosure with the two cheetahs, we started walking around the sanctuary with one of them. The cheetah was on a lead, and the group members took turn holding on to the lead. We learned that one can stop the cheetah from running away by pulling the lead sideways. When one simply holds on to the lead and stays behind the cheetah, the cheetah will be way too strong, and it is impossible to hold on to the lead. However, when pulling sideways, it will be possible to pull the cheetah over. Now we were not allowed to touch the tail any more since this would have irritated the cheetah.
After saying goodbye to the cheetahs, we moved on to the lions. There was one young male and one young female. The male was simply lying on the floor and seemed all relaxed, whereas the female was sniffing around and suddenly jumped up into a tree where one of the guides had placed a shoe. My learning: Do not climb a tree when trying to escape a lion. First, we were
allowed to pet the male lion. Also here we had to approach the animal from behind. Again, we were told to get up slowly in case the lion would turn around. This time, we were given a stick. This stick can be used to distract them when they start getting a bit irritated – one can just rustle them in the grass or point them into a different direction. So we got the opportunity to touch and pet the male lion, and once the female lion had settled down, we were also allowed to pet her. Then we followed the two of them around the sanctuary, without a lead this time. Now we were even allowed to touch the tails again because apparently this is what the cubs do as well. After a big loop, we let the lions go their way, and we returned to the main building of the sanctuary and were driven back to our hostel. I have to say that this was a most amazing experience. These animals are so majestic, beautiful, impressive, and so much more. It was fantastic to be so close to them, and I just hope that they will be able to
Zambezi River Cruise IV
Little bird on the banks of the river.
lead a good life out in the wild.
That day, we spent a wonderful evening at the Royal Livingstone Hotel. As mentioned, this is a luxury hotel right on the banks of River Zambezi. We had a sundowner on the deck with a beautiful view of the river and waterfalls, and then we had a lovely dinner on the terrace of the restaurant, with a herd of zebra passing the scene while we were eating. This was a truly enjoyable evening!
After having seen and done so many things, we allowed ourselves a rest day in the guest house. We simply spent the day by the pool, dipping in every now and then, and reading our books. On Friday morning, we caught a bus back to Lusaka. On our way, we took on board the passengers of another bus that had broken down. It took quite some time until all the baggage was stowed, and then the bus was really crammed. But it was good to see it being a given that people were not left somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The journey took forever, around nine hours for 500 km. When arriving in Lusaka, again the
bus was surrounded by taxi drivers who were very assertive, and it was a challenge to get hold of our backpacks that had been in the luggage compartment. Finally, one of the taxi drivers who had been assertive but patient was our driver of choice, and he took us to our hostel in a taxi that was so old that I was worried whether we might even make it there. But it all worked out fine, and after having settled some misunderstanding concerning our booking, we could have dinner and go to bed before our next adventure – a trip to Kafue National Park – would start. But this will be the next story.
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