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Exercising in Victoria Falls

by Guest Blogger

The scenery around Victoria Falls - this is the Zambezi River below the Falls.

30 March 2022

Exercising, as an early morning walker/runner/cyclist, in Victoria Falls is not without its challenges but not of the kind you might encounter elsewhere in the world, like traffic, exhaust fumes or crowded streets.

Here the challenge is that our city, in the north-west corner of Zimbabwe, is situated in the National Park and wild animals, including some of the most dangerous, are often encountered.

Riding through Victoria Falls wilderness where you might encounter wild animals

The other morning just before 6am, I set out as usual, when just getting into my stride, I noticed a family group of Mum, Dad and two kids ahead of me abruptly turnabout and begin heading back towards me. I saw them gesticulating to another man heading north and he too turned around.

They shouted at me…BUFFALOS and pointed wildly. Looking through my binoculars, I could see a substantial herd of buffalo standing belligerently in the middle of the road, in this newly developing suburb. There began a series of quick phone calls to warn other groups of run/walkers/dog-walkers, to beware!

Cyclist in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) encounters a large herd of buffalo

At any time of year, you may meet animals but now, in the green season, when the bush is lush and dense you have to be very alert to sounds of the animal kind, like snorting, grunting, whinnying, hoofbeats or breaking branches; the latter could well be elephants eating breakfast.

The scariest ones are lions, which of course, make no sound at all. A couple of years ago a cyclist, steaming up the hillside just out of the city, was suddenly aware in the predawn dark that some-thing was running beside him.

Wild spore in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

With extreme good fortune at that moment, a car came cruising down the hill towards him and in the headlights, he saw, to his horror a lion pacing him. The driver seeing the danger, allowed the cyclist to hang on to the back of the vehicle and towed him back to safety.

Thank you, said the lucky cyclist, for saving me from the lion. "The Lion", exclaimed the driver. "There were 14 lions in the shadows all watching you!"

This of course is not a daily occurrence, as the lions move in and out of the area. But when they have been spotted, their whereabouts are quickly shared amongst groups and whether it be cyclists, walkers or runners, routes and plans are changed accordingly. Which is quite an amusing but at the same time bizarre thing to happen.

Cyclists encounter a bull elephant on Zambezi Drive, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

On another occasion recently, when the weather was exceedingly hot and the elephants were very stressed, two local kayakers, well versed in animal behaviour, climbed up out of the Batoka gorge, after a morning's kayaking on the Zambezi River below the Victoria Falls, and in an unprovoked attack, were charged at terrifying speed by a very angry bull elephant.

As they ran for their lives, one of the men managed to pick up and throw a rock at the bull bearing down on him. Fortunately, this was enough to startle the elephant, which slowed down and then abandoned the chase. Both men very lucky to have survived to tell the tale.

Elephants can run at least twice as fast as a fit man running at his top speed, for up to 3 kilometres.

There are countless other tales of similar ilk to these ones, which I guess would make an interesting book one day, if someone was to collate them all.

However, suffice to say in the interim, visitors need to be aware that all wild animals, no matter how benign they may look, are dangerous and to always keep a safe distance.

Check out this short clip of cyclists riding past a herd of buffalo:


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