Sunday, May 15, 2016


Upon arrival in Johannesburg, we met up with Claire and George and flew to Victoria Falls. After waiting in the Zimbabwe customs line for an hour and receiving the most carefully adhered visas in our passports, we were greeted by a man named Admire, who drove us to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge.

We enjoyed the watering hole in view of the hotel. It attracted impalas, kudu, warthogs, guinea fowl, baboons, elephants and a giraffe. 

This can all be seen from the open-air dining area of the hotel.

There's a blind built into one shore of the watering hole to allow close-up viewing and photography.

Our first of many gorgeous African sunsets.

Our first night we enjoyed a river cruise on the Zambezi River. 

The spray from Victoria Falls is visible from the boat (it was also visible from the plane as we landed). We're a few miles upriver from the falls.

Our first wildlife sighting! A hippo.

A raft of hippos!

Our first elephant sighting! They swim in the river.

A termite mound. Many animals, including dwarf mongoose and hyenas, use them as homes after the termites have vacated. This one may still be available to rent.

Most of us enjoyed our cruise! 

Some of us were feeling the effects of jetlag following the 34-hour journey from California.

After two nights in Victoria Falls, we rode a bus to Botswana.

We saw Ground Hornbill, an endangered species.

We saw the iconic Acacia trees.

At the Botswana border, we saw the line of trucks waiting to cross into Zimbabwe. It can take several days to cross the border.

Victoria Falls

On our first morning in Victoria Falls, we naturally went to see the falls itself. Twice the height of Niagara, Victoria Falls is the "world's largest sheet of falling water." The local name for the falls is The Smoke that Thunders, referring to the huge amount of spray that is sent back up into the air (we saw the spray the previous day from the plane as we approached the Victoria Falls airport).

The falls drops into a narrow gorge, allowing a great view looking upriver from the opposite side.

The first European to see the falls was David Livingstone, who arrived there in November 1855.

 A different way to say that is that Livingstone "discovered" the falls.

We were there just at the end of the wet season, so the falls were going at full volume, which is an astounding sight, including the amount of spray that is produced.

The trade-off is that the resulting spray is so intense that in some places that it completely obscures the falls. They say that you need to visit twice, to see it in both the wet and dry seasons.

The spray produces frequent rainbows.

Some views from upriver at the top of the falls.

The spray is so intense that it produces a small rainforest ecosystem. In some places, the falling spray is like a constant, heavy, rainstorm. The ponchos that we rented at the entrance to the park were definitely needed.

Here's Brian after deciding to don his poncho.

On the downriver side of the falls, the river widens into what's called the Boiling Pot.

While walking around the falls, we had our first view of vervet monkeys. They're a pretty common sight in this part of the world.

The Zambezi river forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. There's a bridge across the Zambezi just downriver from the falls.

We didn't have the necessary visa to actually enter Zambia and then return to Zimbabwe, but we were able to get from the Zimbabwe border control staff this very official looking "bridge pass" that allowed us to walk across the bridge and back (there was some trepidation within the group as to whether they would actually let us back in, but everything worked just fine).

We walked out to the middle of the bridge where, in addition to buying overpriced trinkets from peddlers, you can bungee jump (we did not jump, but some trinkets were bought).

After walking around the falls, we retired for lunch on the terrace of the historic Victoria Falls Hotel, which offers a view of the falls. We would return here that evening for dinner at the Livingstone Room.

We will get to Cape Town, but not yet.
During lunch, a group of warthogs wandered onto the lawn and ate whatever they pleased. There was a hotel employee patrolling the area with a rifle, but we didn't see him use it.

Anne Marie vetoed our planned trip to The Snake Pit.

Nor did we try any of the fast food on offer in the town of Victoria Falls.

Next stop, Botswana!