A Travellerspoint blog

Victoria Falls (Part 1 – “Zam”) and Botswana

We arrived in Livingstone, Zambia via overnight bus from Windhoek, Namibia to see the world famous Victoria Falls. Since we arrived late in the day, we walked directly to our hostel, Jollyboys Camp, to rest.

The next day we headed out to see the falls. Victoria Falls sits on the border between Zambia (“Zam”) and Zimbabwe (“Zim”). It is one of the world’s three largest waterfalls (along with Niagara and Iguassu) and is considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The Zambezi River feeds the falls and, shockingly, during the dry season, you can walk across the top of the falls (the warning signs say to watch out for “surges” that could sweep you over). Safety standards are not first world! We viewed the falls from several points, including the “Knife Edge”, where you get drenched from the spray. We also hiked down to the “Boiling Point” on the Zambezi River - a large whirlpool created by the falls and also a spot under the bridge between Zim and Zam where you can watch bungee jumpers. The falls were impressive to say the least. We are looking forward to seeing them from the Zim side as well in a few days.
IMG_4119.jpg Our 1st view of the Falls
IMG_4188.jpg Standing in front of the Boiling Point
Our guide book recommended grabbing a drink at the Royal Livingstone Hotel which sits on the Zambezi River just above the falls. We headed over for what we thought would be a late lunch but, unexpectedly, stumbled upon high tea (which I had never been to before). The hotel is luxurious and the grounds are pristine. It was by far the nicest hotel we have been to since our wedding. Between the hotel and the fancy high tea, I was in heaven. Even Jeff was overly excited. After two months of backpacking, we almost…almost forgot what luxury felt like. Quiche, cucumber sandwiches, and a million desserts, buffet style. We enjoyed it way too much!
7IMG_4195.jpg Enjoying High Tea
Victoria Falls is near the border of several countries, including Botswana. Botswana is famous for Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta. Unfortunately, there are few if any public buses in Botswana, yet alone connecting Victoria Falls to Botswana. As a result, we decided to try out combis and shared taxis. Combis and shared taxis are the primary means of transportation for Africans who do not have their own vehicles and they are therefore cheap (but you get what you pay for). After a short hike towards the combi “stop”, we were picked up on the way by a shared taxi. The way it works here is that when the bus or taxi is full, they leave (and I mean max capacity – i.e. 16 seats = 20+ passengers plus bags). There is no schedule. So in our shared taxi, I was squished in the back with our backpacks, a man with a child on his lap, and a breastfeeding woman. We eventually made it to the border and were greeted by one of several money changers: “Howzit, my sister and brother from another mother…you need Pula?” Long story short, we crossed into Botswana on a sketchy ferry and stomped our shoes in a chemical laden puddle (supposed to help control foot and mouth disease). Another shared taxi later, we were in Kasane, the town located on the edge of Chobe National Park.
Chobe was a cool experience. It was our first “tour” of a game park (not self driving) and we had a genuine tracker as our guide. He found a leopard in a tree by looking at footprints on the dirt road: “Do you see the fresh foot prints, leopard, and the drag mark, an impala? The leopard must be in a nearby tree eating the impala.” Sure enough, he was. I was impressed. We also chased after a pack of wild dogs that were stalking and eventually killed an impala. We didn’t see the kill, but five minutes after we lost the dogs, they came running by us with blood all over their coats. Pretty insane! That night we took a river cruise through Chobe and got a nice view of hungry hippos and huge crocodiles. Both good and bad, Chobe has over 50,000 elephants, but, due to their enormous vegetarian appetites, they have destroyed a lot of the habitat. As a result, they are discussing culling 10,000 to 20,000 of them.
IMG_4269.jpg Wild Dog Post Hunt
IMG_4283.jpg Leopard Hanging Out in a Tree
IMG_4302.jpg Baboons- I always think they have the most hilarious look on their faces
IMG_4324.jpg Hippos on the Riverbank enjoying the sun
IMG_4390.jpg Riverboat Cruise in ChobeIMG_4407.jpg Water Buffalo stare down
Having been in Kasane for three days, we then headed to Maun, Botswana. We based ourselves at The Old Bridge Backpackers which has a fantastic location right along the Okavango River. We heard that one of the best ways to see the Delta was by mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe, so we signed up for an overnight tour. After a 45-minute boat ride up the river into the Delta, we arrived at a local village where we met our “polers”, the people who would be showing us the Delta. The Delta is created by the Okavango River spilling out into the Kalahari Desert (think massive, shallow lake covered with reeds). The makoro moves similar to a punt in England or gondola in Venice. It was incredibly peaceful out on the Delta and we managed to see elephants, zebras, warthogs, wildebeests, impalas and buffalos. We camped one night on an island and spent the evening by the campfire drinking hot chocolate and educating the non-Americans on smores (they thought a smore was just an expression for a roasted marshmallow). Jeff also tried his hand at poling; he managed not to fall in. It was a really unique experience and a nice way to interact with locals.
IMG_4539.jpg Enjoying the Okavango
IMG_4499.jpg An elephant wandered into our camp- literally. This photo is not zoomed very far.
IMG_4519.jpg Jeff attempting "Poling"
IMG_4580.jpg Just after sunset
IMG_4603.jpg Enjoying the View
After returning from our mokoro trip, we took a day off. We were in desperate need of clean laundry. We also spent the day just relaxing by the riverbank and going into town for groceries. Though our time in Botswana was short, it was packed with a lot of fun. We are now heading to Zimbabwe, considered the second biggest failed country after Somalia in 2008. Should be interesting!

Posted by geldere 11:44 Archived in Botswana Tagged waterfalls elephants wild dogs chobe okavango combi

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