Victoria Falls - What a Great Escape!
by K J Coetzee
(Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa)
Curtain of Awe. This thunderous flow of water creates a spectacle of beauty hard to describe.
My wife and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary in January 2010, and wanted to do something special. A friend of mine suggested Victoria Falls, especially since we had good rains in that region recently, and he was sure that it would be a great spectacle.
How right he was. After a quick search on the internet I realised that there was more to the region than just the falls, with varying costs and degrees of daredevilry. We decided to go during mid March.
We flew to Livingstone in Zambia, and had to get a transfer to the Zimbabwean side as we were booked into the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge which came highly commended by my friend. Customs people were not friendly, but we did not have any problems with our South African passports, but if you needed a Visa, it took time.
What is that?
As we approached the border one could see the Victoria Falls' spray from a distance as it rises up from the landscape in torrents of mist, and at the border the roaring thunder could be heard.
Things to do
There are many operators in Victoria Falls that sells packages on tours of the falls, elephant back riding, white river rafting, canoeing, sunset cruises and many more. If you have the money and the time, the possibilities are endless.
We opted for elephant riding, helicopter flip over the falls and a sunset cruise.
The elephant riding was great, but beware the discomfort of sitting on this large animal for an hour or so. It is a never-to-be-missed-and-never-to-be-done-again experience. We saw Giraffe, Kudu and Zebra, and enjoyed a stroll through a stream in the reserve, high and dry.
The helicopter ride was great, and it complimented the experience of viewing the falls on foot. The vast expanse of water could be seen and we took excellent photographs as well.
The sunset cruise is a must! As the river was high, some of the smaller islands was very wet and we did not see any animals. However, we saw a family of Hippo in the water at the side of one such island, which nearly made us forget the setting sun which we came to see and photograph. I could stay here forever!
The Majestic Falls
We were armed with raincoats and could not understand why people who passed us on their way out was so wet? At the Devil's Cataract we were met by the awesome spectacle of rushing and roaring water, and soon we realised that in the heat of the day (it was very hot) the rain coat was more of a sauna, and it did not work well in the spray which was pumping in all directions.
We had to get wet! Off with the raincoats (luckily I wore my contact lenses, for glasses would be problematic)and on with the walk through the rain forest. Words cannot describe what we saw. The view changed from "now you see it, now you don't" in seconds, and it was difficult to take pictures at some of the viewpoints. To keep the camera dry - mission impossible. Luckily I did not take my SLR camera with that day, and used a small digital camera which could be stowed easily instead.
At Danger Point it was like a torrential rain and impossible to even take the camera out. I photographed other people, drenched in rain, from a safer distance, without the falls as background, just "rain" and mist.
Reaching the Bridge linking Zimbabwe and Zambia, it was still wet and misty. What a great view!
The route back is less wet, and one could enjoy the plants and other Godly wonders as we discussed this great wonder of nature. What a beautiful creation.
Do not go for a weekend
We spent 3 nights here, but a four nights or longer stay would be better, as all the activities takes up more time than you would imagine. One should allow 3 to 4 hours per activity (some more), even if you think it is "only an hour on elephant back" - the full excursion took more than 4 hours!
If you intend participating in activities, time must be budgeted as the day getting there, and the day going back home is taken up in travel; waiting at borders and airports.
I could carry on writing about the elephants that we encountered next to the road while traveling back to the lodge, or the vulture feeding and the jackal that stole their food, or the Boma experience, but you have to experience it yourself!
It is a Great Escape for an anniversary, or any excuse to leave the kids at home and be alone in your loved one's company. Now that I have been there, I wish that I could have shared it with the kids! We all must simply go back!