Africa

Zambia and Victoria Falls National Park

Monday – August 23, 2010 –

Today my brother Jeff and I planned on traveling up to Zambia and Zimbabwe to visit Victoria Falls. We woke up at 5:45 a.m. and checked out of the Metcourt Casino before catching the shuttle to Joburg OR Tambo International Airport.

Since we had time to kill before our flight, we had a proper South African breakfast of eggs, bacon and orange juice at a restaurant called Capello in the airport. Then around 9:45 a.m. we flew 1time Airways, an African discount carrier, to Livingstone, Zambia. We arrived around 11:30 a.m. and went through customs. We bought a multi-entry Zambian visa at the airport before taking a taxi (about $30) to the Zambezi Sun Resort. Along the way, we had encountered a family of elephants cross the road! Only in Africa!

Upon arrival at the Zambezi Sun, we checked in after correcting a miscommunication about our room only having only one bed. The Royal Zambezi is a very nice place and one of two resorts with direct free access to Victoria Falls National Park in Zambia.

First view of Victoria Falls from Zambia

First view of Victoria Falls from Zambia

We skipped lunch and left for the Day Activity Centre where we checked on our reservations. There we journeyed at 14:00 p.m. for a tour of the Zambian side of the falls with our private guide, Purity. The tour was only $8 per hour!

Words really cannot describe how massive these waterfalls of Victoria Falls are! Jeff and I were fortunate to see Iguazu in Brazil and Argentina a couple of years earlier, and they seemed similar in some ways. Victoria Falls is the largest curtain of water in the world at more than a mile wide and 328 feet in height. Iguazu is technically wider, but it doesn’t appear that way because it is split up into 275 discrete falls and large islands.

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Jeff and I were shocked at how big and loud the wall of water was in front of us. We walked out to the Knife Edge to see the Eastern Cataract plunge 331feet in front of us. We also admired the Boiling Pot with it tremendous white water. In some places, there were not really safety barriers to keep you from sliding off a cliff to the Zambezi River below, so it was really wild. We actually became pretty soaked from the amount of water pour off the side. We saw the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen near a swinging pedestrian bridge over two canyons. As I had Jeff pose for a photo, a rainbow seemed to float out over his head.

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Afterwards, Purity took us to a tent of folk artists. I bartered and was haggled by the locals to buy carvings, but they successfully convinced me to buy small ebon-wood carvings of a water buffalo, hippo, rhino and elephant. Then Purity dropped us off at the sundeck of the Royal Livingstone hotel – talk about a fancy hotel! – where we waited for our boat tour to Livingstone Island.

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Later, a motorboat picked Jeff and me up at 15:30 p.m. and transferred us perilously close to the edge of the falls where we anchored at Livingstone Island. We saw a marker of the great explorer David Livingstone, who was the first European to “discover” the falls. Of course the island and Zambian town are named for him, but many locals refer to the falls as Mosi-oa-Tunya – which means “the smoke that thunders.” There we toured the island and got insanely close to the edge. Our guide edged hair-raisingly close to the precipice as he took photos and video with my camera! Then we enjoyed snacks and a high tea of Earl Grey, scones and finger foods at sunset. The entire trip and tea cost about $90.

High tea on LIvingstone Island

High tea on LIvingstone Island

Sunset from Zambia

Sunset from Zambia

After leaving the island in the boat around 17:30 p.m., we passed hippos in the Zambezi River before arriving back on shore to take the inter-hotel shuttle back to the Zambezi Sun. We got cleaned up at the hotel before we went to supper at Squire’s Bar/Café on the premises because it was much cheaper than the resort’s restaurant with its $35 buffet. There were a lot of Europeans watching football matches inside. I had a nice curry chicken pizza that hit the spot after a long day.

We then decided to get a driver to take us back to the park for us to see something very few people get to see: a moonbow! Each full moon the Victoria Falls rainforest re-opens in the evening for special tours to witness the mystical magic of the lunar rainbow.

Moonbow over Victoria Falls

Moonbow over Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls – along with Cumberland Falls, Kentucky – is one of the few places on earth where this natural phenomenon occurs regularly. The moonbow, or lunar rainbow, results from light reflected off the surface of the moon refracting off of moisture laden clouds in the atmosphere. Moonbows are relatively faint, due to the smaller amount of light reflected from the surface of the moon.

From where we were, the moon rose behind us offering a great moonbow over Rainbow Falls. The rainbows were spectacular since we caught it at full moon, but they were difficult to capture on camera, even with my nice Canon digital SLR. There were tons of amateur photographers and professional out trying to get the perfect photo and time lapse. It was a fantastic end to an exciting day in Zambia!

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