Border crossing to Zambia
By the time our game drive in Chobe National Park ended, we immediately went back to the camp. Everyone was ready to leave. Another country with loads of activities awaited us. We crossed the 400 meter wide Zambezi river by ferry. And then went straight to the immigration office full of people. The waiting lasted for 2 hours until it we finally got our passports stamped. Fortunately there was a Uni-Visa available. It’s a type of visa which enables travellers to cross into Zambia/Zimbabwe as much as they like within 30 days. It costs exactly the same as the single entry visa and was very convenient since I would eventually cross border to Zimbabwe. The whole place was a chaos. Endless crowd and traffic, plus the heat! I just wanted to get out of there.
And then we reached Waterfront by midday. Set up our tents before orientation with a gadventure staff. It seems that Zambia is quite an expensive destination in terms of activities. Livingstone was probably the place where I spent more money than anywhere else in Africa. Most in the group opted for rafting the next day. For me, I had everything planned. 5 days earlier, Peter gave us a list of current activities available in Livingstone. So I knew already what I wanted to do. Mainly to see the spectacular falls, lion walk and a dip in that notorious Devil’s Pool. I wanted to go to the National Park to see the falls before sunset. Not exactly recommended at the moment due to dry season. I talked to an employee at the gadv office. She told me that going to the Park on the Zambian side would be a waste of time and money because there was nothing to see but rocks. And that the views were much better from the Zimbabwean side.
Day 1: A visit to Livingstone Island
At 8:30 am we took a taxi to Royal Livingstone Hotel. That was the place where our tour started. From there, we had an exhilarating boat ride to Livingstone Island. We were met by several guides who led us to a small bar. Dropped our bags and went further to the west of the island overlooking the falls.
Wow! What an incredible view! Afterwards, we went to take a dip in the Devil’s Pool just like what every daring traveller would do. The guides assisted us over the rocks. Telling us where to step etc.. And then we started to swim towards another rocky outcrop before jumping into the pool. I have never done anything like this before! Being on top of a waterfall. Not just any waterfall. But Victoria Falls! One of the seven natural wonders of the world. Amazing! We spent 20 minutes in that pool. Followed by a delicious breakfast back at the bar.
Although the trip was great. I thought that everything was on a rush. Many in the group expressed their dissatisfaction and even made an attempt to get a partial refund back in the office. It was a very expensive tour to begin with. The Livingstone Island excursion costs 90USD. It’s absurd! It should be 40 instead!
The lion walk took place outside Livingstone in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. First stop was at the Boma situated within the park. The friendly staff greeted us with soft-drinks. We sat for a bit while one of them showed us a short informative movie about their program, the “African Lion Rehabilitation & Release Into the Wild Programme”. It is an active program supported by ALERT (African Lion & Environmental Research Trust). A non-profit organization that focuses on preservation and release of lions into the wild. The film was followed by a safety briefing before bush walking with two young lionesses.
The staff who accompanied us were well trained and vigilant the whole time so we had nothing to worry about. Walking close with these fascinating beasts, to kneel beside and touch them. And watching as they hunt, play & enjoy their habitat was a memorable experience. An absolute highlight of the trip. The sad part is that these iconic animal species are nearly extinct. Over the past decades their numbers have dwindled by 50% since the 1990s. Today there are approximately 20000 left in the African continent.
Flight over the Victoria Falls
Back at Waterfront. I’ve been informed that my 15min helicopter flight, which was supposed to start at 1pm, had been cancelled for unknown reasons. Since I already paid for it. They put me on another flight on a late afternoon so I waited a few hours more. It was my first time to ride a helicopter. We flew above Victoria Falls. It’s so huge. Based on what I have read. The width of the falls is 1700 meters. With a variation of height between 80-108 meters. The volume of water flows 3000 cubic meters per second and the mist generated by the falls can be seen several kilometers away.
The views are majestic! To finally see the world’s largest waterfall with my own eyes was like a dream come true. I was so happy that I did this flight. Although it was pricey. Our pilot circled the falls several times to ensure we get as much photos as possible. After almost 15 minutes we continued downstream over the Batoka Gorge. I thought we were heading back. That was when I realized I’ve been placed on a much longer scenic flight.
I was even more happy for not paying extra. The 30-minute flight would have cost me 380USD. I guess It was some sort of a compensation for my dissatisfaction with the Livingstone Island tour.