The first week of my three week southern Africa travel blitz is over. I spent some of it at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and some at Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Vic Falls, as people call it, is a hub of activity. The falls themselves are dramatic and beautiful and some of the action revolves around them but there are many activities that have nothing to do with the falls and are simply located there in order to take advantage of the tourist stream.
The Zambezi river serves as the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and the first thing I did was to take a walk to see the falls on the Zimbabwe side since that’s the side where I was staying. This was a wet affair as they are almost at peak flow right now and so the spray situation is pretty extreme. In fact, I could see the spray from the airplane as I was flying in to Livinstone, Zambia, the town on the other side of the border. Even though I rented a raincoat to wear, I still got totally soaked including my shoes squelching full of water.
Walking along the cliffside directly across from the falls was impressive and, in addition to the beauty across the way were many gorgeous creatures living in the rainforest including bushbuck, silver-cheeked hornbill, and lots of Vervet monkeys.
That afternoon, I crossed the border back to Zambia to take a microlight flight over the falls. On the Zimbabwe side there are only helicopter rides and I’d heard the microlight was more incredible so I chose that. It was an amazing experience, pretty much like being in a hanglider with a motor, and a pilot of course.
I had heart palpitations as we were going up but quickly got used to it and was able to enjoy the amazing views of the cracks in the earth (visible at left in photo) that resulted in the falls along with the falls themselves. The current location is the eighth for these falls and they can predict where the next one will be in 20,000 years or so! I also was able to see giraffe, elephant, hippo and crocodile in and around the Zambezi river from the air.
The next day, I went on a lion walk with a lion breeding and release organization that uses lion cub walks with tourists as a way to raise money for the project. The lion population in Africa declined 90% between 1975 and 2002 so this organization, Lion Alert, is trying to help rebuild it. The two lion cubs I got to walk with and pat on the back, Thembili and Thuli, will never be released into the wild but they will become part of a pride that will have cubs that will be released.
The lions that have all the human contact resulting from the walks would not be able to make it in the wild but their progeny should be able to if they are not exposed to humans in this way. It was a new experience for me to be petting and walking with lions. You’ll note in the photo that I do have a large stick in my other hand, part of the safety procedures they employ in case a lion cub appears to want to gnaw on something – better a stick than a hand or a leg.
After all this activity, it was a nice change to get driven to Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana, located on the Chobe river and inside the Chobe National Park. It was a gorgeous and relaxed lodge with boat cruises on the river to see birds and game as well as those on land in safari vehicles. I took three boat rides and two land trips while there and saw several animals I had missed in Tanzania including a male lion with a black mane (gorgeous!), kudu (stunning) and many birds including fish eagles, giant and malachilte kingfisher, and jacana, also known as Jesus birds as they appear to be able to walk on water.
Back at Vic Falls for my last night before flying to Namibia, I took a tour of a crocodile farm. The farm has 30,000 crocs, which floored me. I’d expected a few hundred at most. What a production line they have and the shop sells croc handbags, belts, and pelts from other animals – not something one sees in Califormia!
So now I’m in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, awaiting arrival of my friend Anne with whom I will drive around the dunes and the coast for the next nine days. Can’t wait – sand boarding here I come!