Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Part 6: Victoria Falls, Zambia

On December 11 we said our goodbyes at Chobe Game Lodge and proceeded to the border post at Kazungula, prior to entering Zambia. This so-called road/boat transfer (the alternative is a light air transfer from Kasane to Livingstone) takes about 2 hours. It involves a rather interesting boat trip across the Zambezi River, followed by a real third-world experience of standing in line at the immigration office on the Zambia side of the border, paying your US$50 (no change made!) visa fee and hoping that the person who is handling your luggage has got everything under control.
Trucks lined up for the border crossing - by ferry - between Botswana and Zambia. Apparently it can take up to several weeks during busy periods, to make this crossing. A bridge which will eventually replace the ferries is in the early stages of construction.

Getting ready for the boat ride across the river from Botswana to Zambia.


Somehow or other our driver managed to maneuver his way out from amongst the many trucks lining up to cross the border, and we drove via the town of Livingstone to our last overnight stop. This was Stanley's Safari Lodge, an impressive and striking stone and thatch edifice overlooking the Victoria Falls, with a vapor plume from the falls visible in the distance.

A portion of the main lounge & dining room at Stanley's Safari Lodge

A quiet corner at Stanley's Safari Lodge

At Stanley's Safari Lodge we enjoyed a very welcome light lunch consisting of a fresh mixed green salad, bread rolls and an excellent vegetable torte. The meat-eaters were treated to what appeared to be fried breaded chicken wings.

Late afternoon view of Stanley's Safari Lodge from the pool

The vanishing edge pool at Stanley's Lodge with the Zambezi Valley in the background.


My room at Stanley's was fabulous but somewhat wasted on a single traveler: a massive 'honeymoon suite' which was completely open to the front, with a gorgeous view over the Zambezi Valley and the Victoria Falls in the distance. The huge king size bed is just a few metres from a good-sized private plunge pool, and there is a fireplace, a lounge, an outdoor shower, and a large bathroom with a natural rock bath. Really an amazing room for an adventurous traveler looking for something out of the ordinary. I was anticipating a problem with insects that night, but there were hardly any to be seen and I felt very cozy inside the large mosquito net.

My room at Stanley's Safari Lodge. The plunge pool was a little chilly I thought.

That afternoon, we drove back through Livingstone town to the location of the new Toka Leya Lodge, a Wilderness Safaris property just upstream of the Victoria Falls. I was impressed with the stylish rooms, wonderful common areas & expansive deck overlooking the Zambezi River.


The pool at Toka Leya Lodge with the Zambezi River visible in the background.

A room at Toka Leya Lodge


Another view of one of the rooms at Toka Leya Lodge; the rooms are very secure with lockable doors.

A portion of the deck at Toka Leya with the Zambezi River in the background.

Our last group dinner was a fun and entertaining event, as were most of our meals. Everybody genuinely seemed to like each other and each other's company and there never was a shortage of stories, anecdotes, jokes & light-hearted banter. I would travel with this group again any time!


Main course for dinner at Stanley's Safari Lodge: beef fillet with mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables.


The vegetarian alternative: stuffed butternut squash.

On December 12 I woke up in a massive bed elevated over the Zambezi valley, with the exotic sounds and calls of turacos, redchested cuckoos, trumpeter hornbills, an African cuckoo and some robins providing a splendid background soundtrack. Our last day in Africa would be very special. By 0700A we were ready to board a boat for a short trip into the middle of the Zambezi River, for a breakfast outing to Livingstone's Island. This turned out to be a superb adventure, which I would recommend for somewhat intrepid visitors, especially if they are able to jump into and swim in the pond right by the edge of the Falls. It was a most amazing experience to be suspended in the cool water of the Zambezi, just a few feet from the very edge where the river plunges over an almighty cliff.

The boat ride to Livingstone's Island commences from a landing at the Royal Livingstone Hotel.


A few members of our group in the natural rock pool on the edge of the Victoria Falls


Visitors to Livingstone Island can walk to this spot for a photograph; it is afterward that the prospective 'swimmers' get to take their clothes off and swim (yes there's a current!) to another rocky point, from where they can jump into the natural rock pool.

A portion of the Vic Falls on the Zambia side of the Falls.

Early that afternoon, we were off to Livingstone Airport for the less than 2 hr flight back to Jo'burg. After a not-too-onerous immigration procedure (no problems with my brand new US passport!), and some last minute shopping, it was all aboard on the l-o-n-g flight back to the USA. My best advice to anyone who does have the time, is to break up this return journey by spending another (last) night in Jo'burg. It just gets to be too much to have an early morning activity, then fly to Johannesburg in the early afternoon, only to have to face a huge long overnight flight back to the USA. Of course sometimes there is no way around this, as was the case in our particular instance. The flight itself was fine, but I was not. Something I had eaten at Vic Falls (come to think of it, the fruit looked a bit suspect...) caused my digestive system to rebel which was not fun. Fortunately it was a short lived event, by the following day (Saturday night) I was ready for a vegan barbecue sandwich at Field of Greens...

All in all the trip was a great success though; I learnt a lot, saw several new places and camps, met some really fantastic people and I am full of enthusiasm for the new year.

In early February Kathleen and I will be heading to Tanzania for a somewhat longer (2 week) trip, to go and take a look at some of the southern Tanzania reserves such as Selous and Ruaha, and to visit Ras Kutani south of Dar-es-Salaam as well as Zanzibar.

8 comments:

Daleen said...

Bert,
Man hoe water my mond nou vir daai lekker kos van Stanley's lodge!Al jou inligting en mooi foto's maak die blog baie interessant.Dis lekker om te hoor dat Afrika se natuur en wild seker die beste ter wereld is.Jy gee al die lodges n baie goeie wright-up,jy moet belangstellendes kry.
Ek hoop die joggers is ook keen natuurliefhebbers Bert!
Bert,hoop jy het n mooi 2009,good luck met jou werk en met jou drawwery.
Groetnis

johnking said...

Bert,
the trip looked amazing, I've enjoyed reading the post, but mostly the pictures have been worthy of a Bill Cosby Kodak Pudding pop. Keep the training up and the body healthy and we'll be flying in Boston!

Alexandra said...

Thank you for sharing your trip with us! It sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity! You got to experience some wonderful things. I like the photo of you with the rainbow! Yes, you did find a pot of gold!

Best wishes for 2009! I hope it's a happy healthy year for you!

Priscilla said...

Great posts about your trip. I love the pictures and hope some day I can see those places in person. Have a great 2009!

Burger said...

Those falls are absolutely breathtaking - thanks for sharing.

Hope to see you in Houston!

Laurel said...

Wow. I am speechless looking at these pictures. What a beautiful vacation.

Safe travels and Happy New Year!

Lily on the Road said...

Thank you so very much for sharing this incredible journey. The only thing better would be to have been on the trip too!

Thanks...I do miss flying...

Rainmaker said...

Wow, Zambia looks great. Definitely have to add it to my list for future trips!